Jan 17 AT 11:21 AM Brooks Barnard 16 Comments

Google[x] developing smart contact lenses for diabetics and their phones

Google[x] Smart Contact Lens

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.

Enter Google[x].

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.

Source: Google

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours Android modding and theming. He has a hot wife, is a father of three, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 6 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms and may or may not be rooted. You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

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  • Joseph Edouard

    I’m excited at the possibility of Google glass technology maybe one day being included in the contact form one day although I’m not sure how’d u would fit a battery in the eye, solar power maybe lol

    • Greg

      I’m sure a way could be found for a device that small to be powered by the heat from the eye.

  • Joe Pauly

    I’ve been a diabetic for 16 years. Something like this would be absolutely amazing. If they would have trails I would certainly look at it.

    • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

      I’m not exactly sure where to look, but I’m also going to try my darnedest to get involved with testing or trials. Why not?!?

  • sainthooligan
    • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

      Thanks for sharing! This is all really interesting to me.

  • Stuart

    I have been diabetic for 23 years, since I was 16 months old. I now have an insulin pump with continuous glucose monitoring. It has helped me get my A1c (an average, if you will, indication of what blood glucose levels have been for the past 3 months) from 10 to 7.2 and im trying to get it down to the 6′s. This would be an awesome device, and it doesn’t involve needles!

  • jay

    Having been a diabetic, type 1 since I was 3, and am now 43, I have been fortunate but as I’ve gotten older my blood sugar levels stay too low, my arc is usually 5.0, I use a pump and a cgm, but would LOVE this.

  • donger

    Google is always up to something.

  • Charles Henbest

    Type 1 for 15 years, been wearing glasses for about 5 years. This would convince me to go with contact lenses – and the blood sugar monitoring would be great!

  • James D’souza

    Will be a big health advantage for diabetics world over. Waiting for its release

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  • Marsha

    As a life-long Type 1 diabetic, I have been through all of the ‘latest’ developments in our care, and have to tell you that this development far exceeds ANY other thing that has come up in the past 40 years. While CGM’s are a big improvement, they are still invasive and require relatively frequent finger-sticks for calibration. IF this contact lens technology could get us all away from the constant pokes, well, I can’t imagine 1)living a healthy life as a 60something person (which could happen with the improved glucose monitored levels) and 2)having feeling in my fingers (other than the continual pain that I have been left with now).
    Everyone needs to be concerned about Diabetes, we can see that the number of diabetics is growing exponentially. If you are not a member of our bummer-of-a-club now, there’s a HUGE chance that you AND a loved-one of yours will be before much time passes! Diabetes causes far more deaths than it ever is credited with: causes heart disease and kidney failure over the long-term, so when a diabetic dies from one of these, the ’cause of death’ lists ‘heart failure’ or ‘kidney failure’, not Diabetes, which is the true catalyst. This is one of the greatest problems we have in getting companies to care to research cures/treatments: we look less fatal than our diagnosis really is. So, again I say, ‘Hooray Google!’ I’m super excited and I’ll be watching! Put me in a clinical trial, I’m ready!

  • Khürt L. Williams

    You downplay currently available technologies for doing continuous glucose monitoring but get excited by technology that is less accurate and hasn’t even proven itself in clinical trials?

    • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

      If the currently available equipment isn’t up to snuff, why wouldn’t one get excited about new technology? It’s perfectly acceptable to get excited about new ideas even if they never come to fruition. I appreciate the effort from Google if nothing else.

  • emma gibson

    That would be amazing. I also was diagnosed with type 1 at 28.
    I really hate testing, it hurts and my finger tips are sore all the time…