Apple trying to succeed in sensor development for diabetes treatment

A stealth initiative by technology leader Apple looks set to revolutionize treatment for diabetics. The company has started the project with a small group of engineers specialized in biomedical technology, with the work starting in an unassuming office near the HQ of the company in the US. Apple have not publicly announced the project.

The project is highly confidential, aiming to create devices that can precisely and comfortably measure biometric markers in order to possibly integrate with offerings like the Apple Watch. Chief among the data to track would be the level of sugar in the blood. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of the company who passed away recently, was personally involved in the early conceptualizing of the idea.

This project is as bold as other Apple ideas of the past, ambitious since it has been very difficult for researchers to develop ways to track blood sugar non-invasively. The news of the project was divulged by three sources within the company.

It seems to already be in a late stage of development. Feasibility studies have been carried out in different parts of California, and the legal and regulatory challenges have been explored by the company already.

The project was started sometime around 2012. It was conceived as part of Jobs’ vision for wearable tech that would enable users to monitor various health indicators. After it’s CEO got in contact with Jobs out of the blue in 2010, tech startup Cor was acquired by Apple which is related to their move into sensors and wearable monitoring systems.

The stealth team is supervised by the Senior VP of hardware tech at Apple, Johnny Srouji. Previously, Michael D. Hillman was the project supervisor. He has since left to work on the Oculus project now owned by Facebook. Before leaving the top secret project at Apple in 2015, he had the same role on the project that Srouji now has.

Masimo, Vital Connect, Medtronic, Sano, and C8 Medisensors are some of the health tech companies acquired by Apple recently which has added to the interest in their plans for sensors. The staff of the acquired companies are working on the stealth project (which has about 30 people) and other projects like the Watch program. It is rumoured that the innovations of the stealth team is that of using light rays to guage for blood sugar.

John L. Smith, who is one of the pioneers in measuring blood sugar, said it was “the most difficult technical challenge I have encountered in my career.” It has attracted many great engineering efforts over the past decade. Terrance Gregg, who runs DexCom, has said that “several hundred millions or even a billion dollars” would be required to solve the problem.

Since the technology would be revolutionary if it worked, the Apple Watch would be very important for diabetics. In a similar motivation, Google have developed a bandaid sized device for tracking glucose with DexCom, and more recently have started exploring developing a contact lense that could do the same, both projects run by it’s health tech centre Verily.

More information can be found at: CNBC.

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