Apple seeks patent on technology that will be used to monitor Apple Watch users’ blood sugar readings
Illustration from Apple’s patent application
So how does Apple plan on measuring a person’s blood sugar level without drawing blood? A new patent application filed by Apple with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office explains how. With the long-winded title “Terahertz Spectrosopy and Imaging In Dynamic Environments With Performance Enhancements using Ambient Sensors,” Apple plans on using absorption spectroscopy to obtain non-invasive blood sugar readings. The goal is to use terahertz electromagnetic radiation instead of light passing through a user’s body in order to detect “gas, health/quality of liquid or solid materials.”
There are some issues. Apple adds, “Integrating a gas sensor on an electronic device requires an aperture or opening to allow air to flow onto the gas sensor so that the gas can be detected. “The opening used to allow air flow could lessen the device’s protection from water. Also, the blood sugar reading has to be accurate. If it is off by even a small amount, the user could end up taking too much insulin and bring on a hypoglycemic or low blood sugar attack. This could make the user pass out. The system envisioned by Apple will be able to constantly monitor a diabetic’s blood glucose levels, but not at the accuracy available to hospital patients. Bringing non-invasive blood glucose testing to the Apple Watch could also make the device’s battery drain much faster than usual. For a blood glucose monitor to be available on the Apple Watch, the device will need to monitor more than just gas. But there is a question about whether the timepiece is large enough to fit all the necessary components. The price of the Apple Watch would also have to rise.
The technology discussed in the patent application could also be used to detect skin cancer and other skin problems. And while this all sounds quite grand, Apple has been working on non-invasive blood glucose testing for years and there is no sign that the company has actually started working on this technology at all. Still, the possible payoff would be huge for diabetics and for Apple. Especially considering the other potential diseases that could be detected with this technology.