I think I’m a pretty healthy guy. I eat well. I exercise. No real serious health problems. But about a half a year ago my life changed in a big way. I had no idea that at the ripe old age of 28 one could be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but there I was at the doctors office with a blood glucose level that was through the roof and a no longer working pancreas.
I’m now insulin dependent. Type 1 diabetes can’t be controlled by diet and I need to check my blood sugar levels several times a day and give myself insulin injections to make sure my levels are acceptable. If it goes too low, I run the risk of passing out and dying. If I run too high for long periods of time I run the risk of all sorts of health issues down the line including lost digits and limbs. So as you can see, it’s in my best interest to closely monitor and control my blood sugar levels. In practice, treating type 1 diabetes is a giant balancing act that involves carb counting and needles and any new technologies available could make a huge difference to those affected by the disease.
There are some fancier devices out there that can monitor blood sugar levels in real time that work with an insulin pump to almost provide one with an artificial pancreas, but I’ve been told by a specialist that the technology just isn’t there yet to be something you can set and forget. Additionally, this equipment is expensive. If you don’t have spectacular health insurance, diabetics typically are pricking their fingers to test their blood sugar levels and should be doing it 4+ times a day. We only have ten fingers! I’ve only been doing it for six months and it gets old quick.
Google announced today the one of several technologies being developed in its Google[x] lab is “a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and a miniaturized glucose sensor that is embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material.” They are now in discussions with the FDA and testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second. To me, the best part of this new glucose testing method is the technologies that may go along with it. Google is “also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer.” They’re exploring the integration of tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds. Technology like this could seriously prevent a lot of short term and long term health issues in a simple way that avoids poking, which is always a plus. Lastly, one more thing for the nerd in me to get excited about, Google is reaching out to partners who will be able to use this smart contact lens technology and develop apps that would make the measurements available to the wearer and their doctor. I love any technology I can access and use with my phone.
Being able to use this smart contact lens technology is still a ways out, and I realize that this technology may not be as exciting for everyone as it is for me, but what do you think about it? Wearables that track health and fitness were obviously a big deal at this year’s CES. What are your thoughts on smart medical devices? What are some other ways smart technologies could be integrated into medical devices? And how could they be integrated with our Android phones? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.