Apple is reportedly working on a project that could revolutionize blood glucose monitoring. The goal of this initiative, dubbed E5, is to create a way to measure a person’s blood glucose levels without requiring a skin prick. After hitting some significant milestones in the project recently, Apple now believes it could eventually bring glucose monitoring to the market, according to people familiar with the effort. The ultimate goal is to add this monitoring system to the Apple Watch, which could make the device an essential item for millions of diabetics around the world.
At present, diabetics typically rely on a device that pokes the skin for a blood sample, but this new project by Apple could change that. Using a chip technology known as silicon photonics and a measurement process called optical absorption spectroscopy, Apple’s system uses lasers to emit specific wavelengths of light into an area below the skin where there is interstitial fluid that can be absorbed by glucose. The light is then reflected back to the sensor in a way that indicates the concentration of glucose. An algorithm then determines a person’s blood glucose level.
The team behind this project is Apple’s Exploratory Design Group, a previously unreported effort that’s one of the most covert initiatives at Apple, and is akin to Alphabet Inc.’s X. The company is using a different approach than current patches and devices from companies like Dexcom and Abbott Laboratories, which typically require the skin to be punctured or a device to be inserted into the skin. The current project by Apple would be a major breakthrough for the roughly one in 10% of Americans who have diabetes and could potentially upend the multibillion-dollar diabetes technology industry.
Although there is still much work to be done, the potential for a noninvasive blood glucose monitoring system could prove to be a major boon for diabetics, as well as establish Apple as a powerhouse in the healthcare sector.