Apple reportedly working on watch-based glucose monitor

Rumor has it Apple CEO Tim Cook is test-driving a watch-based device capable of tracking his blood sugar

Apple reportedly working on watch-based glucose monitor
Credit: REUTERS/Mike Segar

According to reports, Apple has some big plans in store for the Apple Watch. Hardly a surprise, since the company seems intent on positioning its increasingly popular wearable as a health-oriented device.

Just a few months ago, word emerged that Apple has been busy hiring a slew of researchers, biomedical engineers and scientists who are working on coming up with a way for diabetics to non-invasively measure their glucose levels. Of course, the challenges Apple faces in making this a reality are immense. Indeed, many biotech companies have been trying to solve this same problem for decades, albeit unsuccessfully.

Recently, word surfaced via CNBC that Apple CEO Tim Cook is already test-driving a device capable of tracking his blood sugar.

Tim Cook has been spotted at the Apple campus test-driving a device that tracks blood sugar, which was connected to his Apple Watch.

A source said Cook was wearing a prototype glucose-tracker on the Apple Watch, which points to future applications that would make the device a "must have" for millions of people with diabetes—or at risk for the disease.

Now, to be clear, the glucose monitor wasn't the Apple Watch itself, but rather a separate device connected to the wearable. At this point, it remains unclear if the connected device was something from Apple's research labs or a third-party device. Nonetheless, if the report is true, it certainly suggests that Apple's interest in coming up with a incredible innovation for diabetics is more serious than previously imagined.

"I've been wearing a continuous glucose monitor for a few weeks," Cook reportedly said while speaking before a group of students this week. "I just took it off before coming on this trip."

Technical and medical hurdles

Again, the technical and medical challenges Apple faces here are immense, as I detailed a few years back in the build-up to the Apple Watch unveiling. For example, releasing such a device would subject Apple to far more regulatory hurdles than it's used to dealing with.

Even if we hypothetically assume that Apple and its impressive all-star team of scientists and engineers can successfully pull off the impossible, miniaturize the device, address a number of usability issues, and improve upon its efficacy in a significant and groundbreaking way, such a device would still require FDA approval and a whole gamut of oversight that Apple isn't accustomed to.

What's more, securing FDA approval would entail extensive and careful clinical trials, with an approval process that could last as long as 18 months. In essence, entering the world of medical devices would require Apple to jump through hoops it traditionally takes pains to avoid.

Without question, it will be fascinating to see how this story develops over the next few months.

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