Apple has long been rumored to be working on the “holy grail” of medical science – the ability to track glucose without having to prick the skin for blood samples. The innovation would be a big deal for people suffering from diabetes. The company hasn’t confirmed anything officially, but a patent application has now given away its secret.
The application is titled “Reference switch architectures for noncontact sensing of substances.” It basically describes a way for a device to measure the concentration of a particular substance in a given sample. The device is probably the Apple Watch, while the substance is probably glucose levels in blood.
Apple Watch Glucose Monitor
Instead of an invasive method like a needle, Apple’s non-invasive glucose monitoring tech uses light to perform an absorption spectroscopy. As light passes through blood, the glucose absorbs energy at certain wavelengths. The light’s properties change when it’s leaving and the Apple Watch can measure this difference to detect glucose levels.
However, Apple’s patent notes that this method has some limitations. The sample might have multiple substances and interfere with the reading as a result. To combat this, the brand incorporates filters, specialized light emitters, short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) detectors, and beamsplitters.
Apple notably hired a number of employees from a company called C8 MediSensors back in 2013. The firm was working on a phone-connected device which could keep an eye on glucose. It later shut down because it couldn’t produce a working product or deal with difficulties like user variability.
It looks like Apple is not giving up on its ambition. The brand’s CEO Tim Cook was rumored to be personally tracking his blood sugar levels using a prototype Apple Watch, so we know it’s actively being developed. The patent was actually filed in 2015, so the iPhone maker has had 3 years to refine the technology.
The Apple Watch 4 isn’t likely to have a glucose monitor since it looks like the innovation is still in the works. We’ll let you know if anything changes in the coming months.