Google recently announced that it is in the process of developing a smart contact lens which can measure glucose in tears. This ambitious project by the world’s largest internet search firm forays deep into wearable technology expected to benefit people with diabetes.
The smart contact lens will use miniaturized wireless chips and sensors. According to a Google statement, “[These chips and sensors are] so small they look like bits of glitter, and [also uses] an antenna thinner than a human hair.” The chips and sensors will be embedded between two layers of soft contact lens. A very small hole in the contact lens will collect tears while the sensors will analyze the fluid. Studies have already been initiated to test the contact lens’ functionality and safety yet Google admitted that there is still a lot of work which needs to be done to complete the project.
These smart contact lenses are very important for diabetes sufferers as they will no longer need to take the painful and disruptive blood tests just to check their glucose level. A sudden drop or increase in glucose levels can be dangerous to diabetes sufferers, thus the need to monitor the levels regularly. The smart contact lens will help people manage their diabetes better.
Google X is the unit in charge of this latest project, which deals primarily with long-term and risky new technology that may not be commercially profitable but can somehow make an impact on the way people live. Google X has already produced Google Glass, a device that has the ability to take photos as well as record videos, but looks like and is worn just like ordinary eyeglasses. The other project this unit launched is the self-driving car.
According to Google, the company decided to make public this latest research on smart contact lens in order for them to look for possible partners that can bring the product to market someday. Based on various estimates, the wearable technology industry is seen to grow between US $10 billion and US $50 billion in the next five years, especially as it relates to the healthcare industry.
The smart contact lens has the ability to “generate a reading once per second,” Google added. This will provide real-time measurements of a person’s glucose levels. According to the managing director of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, Manoj Menon “This is an exciting development for preventive healthcare industry.” This initiative of Google X is expected to usher further research and development in miniaturizing technology to monitor people’s health better and integrate it into the wearable technology products.
Google also said that the company is currently working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so that the product can be introduced in the market. Thus in Google’s announcement, the company is looking for possible partners who can make this market introduction happen. Google is likewise looking for partners who can develop apps which link patients and their doctors to data provided by the smart contact lens.
The wearable technology industry is in the upswing these days. During the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a device called Sensible Baby was introduced. The device, which monitors movement and temperature, is placed in the baby’s night clothes. The device sends signals to the smart phone and an app then notifies the parents through alarms if a problem occurs. The other wearable technology launched during the latest CES are smart watches which measures the wearer’s heart rate and temperature as well as a smart wig which also measures the wearer’s temperature, blood pressure and pulse.
Google’s recent announcement that it is in the process of developing a wearable technology in the form of a smart contact lens which can measure glucose in tears is indeed good news for people suffering from diabetes.
By Roberto I. Belda
Detroit Free Press