Glucose monitoring: The next big thing in wearables?

According to the CDC, more than a third of all Americans currently suffers from diabetes and 88 million American adults have prediabetes (which is reversible with proper diet and exercise). On a global scale, the International Diabetes Foundation estimates that around 700 million people will be living with diabetes by 2045. This is a health crisis that can be partially addressed with new technologies. For years, diabetics have been forced to stick their fingers to draw blood for glucose monitoring throughout the day, but a non-invasive solution that could regularly keep tabs on the level of glucose in one’s blood would be ideal.

There have been numerous attempts to engineer a solution in the past, but even “less invasive” measuring techniques, such as those from Dexcom, have required inserting sensors under the skin. Completely non-invasive techniques thus far have proven unreliable, inaccurate, or both. As technologies improve, however, it’s possible to envision sensors being integrated into an Apple Watch or competing smartwatch in the future. Dexcom’s current solution sends information via Bluetooth from a wearable sensor to paired Android phones or iPhones.

Fitbit recently had invested $6 million in Sano, a company that’s developing a small patch to read a person’s glucose via interstitial fluid just under your skin. As for Apple, the tech giant has partnered with UK startup Rockley Photonics, which builds optical sensors to measure blood glucose data.

It’s only a matter of time before Apple, Fitbit, Samsung, and others in the wearables space offer this important health metric as a standard feature. That will be good news for diabetics, but also for health-minded individuals who want to understand how quickly their bodies are metabolizing sugar and what impact certain foods will have on their blood glucose levels after eating.

According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, while diabetes isn’t a top concern like sleep quality or stress levels for smartwatch and fitness tracker owners, the disease is actually one of the only health concerns that over-indexes with wearables owners compared to the general population. More than 13% of wearables owners in the US are concerned about diabetes compared to 11.7% of the general population. In the near future, these concerns will be addressed with a simple twist of the wrist.