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23 Feb, 2023
2 min time to read

According to reports, Apple has made significant progress in its pursuit of incorporating glucose monitoring capabilities into the Apple Watch, following years of coverage on this development.

A recent report by Bloomberg indicates that Apple has achieved significant milestones and is considering the possibility of introducing glucose monitoring to the market. This project has been viewed as a moonshot-style venture within Apple and dates back to the Steve Jobs era. The ultimate aim of this project is to create a noninvasive and continuous blood glucose monitoring method that can be incorporated into the Apple Watch. Apple had previously concealed its efforts to develop this technology under a secretive health-care startup, but the report reveals that it now has a team of hundreds of engineers dedicated to the project as part of its Exploratory Design Group.

Apple is reportedly taking a different approach to noninvasive blood glucose monitoring than other companies in the past (all of which have failed):

Apple is taking a different approach, using a chip technology known as silicon photonics and a measurement process called optical absorption spectroscopy. The system uses lasers to emit specific wavelengths of light into an area below the skin where there is interstitial fluid — substances that leak out of capillaries — that can be absorbed by glucose. The light is then reflected back to the sensor in a way that indicates the concentration of glucose. An algorithm then determines a person’s blood glucose level.  The glucose system will rely on a slate of Apple-designed silicon photonics chips and sensors. The company tapped Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. to build the main chip to power the feature.

Apple is currently focusing its engineering efforts on developing a prototype device that is about the size of an iPhone and can be strapped to a person's bicep. Over the past decade, this functionality has been tested on hundreds of people, and the results have been compared to standard prick-based tests. The company's goal is to create a preventative measure that warns individuals if they are prediabetic, and early discussions have reportedly taken place about obtaining government approval for the system.

Despite these recent milestones, the system is still in the proof-of-concept stage, and the company needs to shrink the technology down to a more practical design. Unfortunately, the leader of the group working on the technology, engineering executive Bill Athas, passed away unexpectedly at the end of 2022.

Apple executives believe that the company is uniquely positioned to make a breakthrough in this area, given its skill at integrating hardware and software. The company has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in this project, and top executives, including CEO Tim Cook, COO Jeff Williams, and Apple Watch Hardware Chief Eugene Kim, are all involved.