When you are busy at work, either because you are tied to a job, on a busty shift or have constant travel between jobs, it can be genuinely difficult to fit in time to complete your blood sugar reading regime in. Products like FreeStlye Libre really help be offering constant reading, but at around £1300 per year for the consumables it is both expensive for individuals who don’t qualify for them under the NHS (which is still less than 5% of all diabetics, even with recent announcements), and expensive to the NHS if they are paying!
The research from The University of Waterloo is based on technology originally developed by Google and Infineon are working on technology that uses changes in the way radio waves reflect from blood, which they believe varies with blood sugar levels to ultimately put something in a smartwatch. Given the acceleration in which these devices are being taken up, for diabetics, this will be the must-have device. It will remove the pain of finger pricks and offer the convenience of constant monitoring to help with food intake times and volumes.
“We want to sense blood inside the body without actually having to sample any fluid,” said George Shaker, an engineering professor who leads the project. “Our hope is this can be realized as a smartwatch to monitor glucose continuously.”
The team tested their system on ten volunteers and it was around 85 per cent accurate. The tests were performed on liquid blood samples, however, and the system is not yet ready to measure glucose levels through the skin. “We have shown it is possible to use radar to look into the blood to detect changes,” Shaker said.
The next step is to work out how to process the information on the chip instead of relaying it to a computer to get results. The researchers are also collaborating with Infineon to try and shrink the device to fit into a smartwatch.
“I’m hoping we’ll see a wearable device on the market within the next five years,” said Shaker. “There are challenges, but the research has been going at a really good rate.”
Researchers are also working with Infineon to shrink the radar device so that it is both low-cost and low-power. The data analyzed by AI algorithms is now sent wirelessly to computers, but the ultimate aim is self-contained technology similar to the smartwatches that monitor heart rate.
Clearly, the long-term benefits in individual’s health are the main aim, but for workers the additional safety of knowing when high or low blood sugars may be impacting effectiveness or safety in the workplace may make them a compelling item for employers to invest in? We will post more information on this as the research continues!