Diabetes is one of the most widespread diseases of the 21st century and now affects more than 300 million people worldwide. Around 30 million Americans have diabetes, which results from having too much sugar or glucose in their blood.
The most common way of testing blood glucose levels for diabetes patients is taking out a drop of blood and checking a patient’s blood glucose using a glucose monitor. But this invasive way of monitoring blood glucose levels might soon be history and diabetes patients might be able to track their blood glucose levels using less invasive ways — using smartwatches such as Fitbit Ionic and the upcoming Apple Watch Series 3.
Fitbit on Thursday announced its collaboration with health device company Dexcom to create continuous glucose monitoring on the company’s recently launched Ionic smartwatch.
“With Ionic, we are focused on driving positive health outcomes and more health focused tools, and this collaboration is a wonderful example of how we plan to bring that vision to our users,” James Park, Fitbit CEO said in the press release.
Dexcom currently makes glucose monitoring devices which work using a sensor that sits under the patient’s skin and measures glucose levels continuously to provide patients with a picture of how their glucose levels are performing. Devices such as the Dexcom continuous glucose monitor spare the user the trouble of pricking their finger 3 or 4 times a day to get blood samples. They rely on a small sensor wire inserted just below the skin rather than pricking all the way through. This sensor provides glucose reading on smartphones, but such readings will also be shown on the Fitbit Ionic.
The feature is expected to land on the Ionic by next year.
Glucose monitoring in addition to sleep monitoring, oxygen levels monitoring and activity tracking, might make the Ionic appealing to fitness enthusiasts.
It is not just Fitbit which is working on glucose monitoring though. The upcoming Apple Watch Series 3, expected to be launched on Tuesday is expected to have a glucose monitoring feature, even more advanced than the Fitbit Ionic.
According to a May report, Apple has been working on a glucose monitoring feature for its upcoming wearable. The company is rumored to have hired “200 PhDs” to design the feature. The feature is expected to track blood glucose without the need for an invasive procedure such as the use of injections to draw out blood.
According to the report, Apple will have special smartwatch bands, which are designed to monitor glucose. These bands will be sold separately so it doesn’t add to the overall price of the Apple Watch 3.
Non-invasive glucose monitoring has been in the works for very long, but no company has actually succeeded in creating consumer devices which can do it.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually approved a device called the GlucoWatch in 2002. The device used to pass a small electric current through the user’s skin to draw glucose out of his/her body and measure it using the sensors on the device.
But, the device failed as it caused a bad rash to the user and took three hours to take a measurement, coupled with other issues it hard with arm hair and sweat.
Whether Apple and Fitbit finally succeed in bringing non-invasive or less invasive ways of glucose tracking to their smartwatches, remains to be seen.