Could a light-sensor be a light-speed leap for Apple Watch and diabetes?
It's no coincidence that both Apple Watch and HealthKit are both headed by Apple's COO, Jeff Williams. Health and fitness have always been a major focus of the wrist computer. While it shipped with a heart rate monitor, Apple has been working on other sensors for years. One of the big ones has been a glucose monitor to help those fighting diabetes.
Apple has hired a small team of biomedical engineers to work at a nondescript office in Palo Alto, miles from corporate headquarters. They are part of a super secret initiative, initially envisioned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, to develop sensors that can non-invasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes, according to three people familiar with the matter.
CNBC further reports that this sensor team is working under Johny Sjrouji, who heads Apple's silicon efforts, including the S-series systems-in-package that power Apple Watch.
I put "secret" in quotes because the effort has been going on for years, and has been rumored for years, which CNBC actually discusses in the story. Headlines will be headlines though.
This part, though, is encouraging:
The initiative is far enough along that Apple has been conducting feasibility trials at clinical sites across the Bay Area and has hired consultants to help it figure out the regulatory pathways, the people said.
There's been some talk that if Apple goes too far into medical sensors the company would have to start involving the FDA more, which might significantly impact release cycles. That led to some speculation that Apple would let the Watch be the sensor-light consumer product and bring out or partner with other, more medically-focused devices that could be released outside the current 12- to 18-month cycle.
But if Apple can mainstream as many medical sensors as possible, so much the better.
One of the people said that Apple is developing optical sensors, which involves shining a light through the skin to measure indications of glucose.
Fingers — and wrists — crossed we see this stuff sooner rather than later. It's not just amazing technology, it's life-saving.