Google’s next big thing: a tiny smart contact lens for diabetes patients

17 Jan 20142 Shares

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Google’s next big thing is actually quite tiny: a smart contact lens with an embedded circuit board that measures the glucose content of the wearer’s tears every second.

The internet giant is hoping the technology could lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage the disease.

The board contains a tiny wireless chip and miniaturised glucose sensor and they are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material.

Google is also exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds.

The company is testing prototypes of the new technology and has completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to define the prototype.

The world is losing the battle to diabetes

Google says diabetes affects one in every 19 people on the planet and uncontrolled blood sugar can lead to damage of the eyes, kidneys and heart.

“Many people I’ve talked to say managing their diabetes is like having a part-time job,” project co-founder Brian Otis wrote in the Google blog.

“Glucose levels change frequently with normal activity like exercising or eating or even sweating. Sudden spikes or precipitous drops are dangerous and not uncommon, requiring round-the-clock monitoring.

“Although some people wear glucose monitors with a glucose sensor embedded under their skin, all people with diabetes must still prick their finger and test drops of blood throughout the day. It’s disruptive, and it’s painful. And, as a result, many people with diabetes check their blood glucose less often than they should,” Otis wrote.

Google is in discussions with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the new technology and plans to look for partners who are experts in bringing medical-device products to market.

“We’ve always said that we’d seek out projects that seem a bit speculative or strange, and at a time when the International Diabetes Federation is declaring that the world is ‘losing the battle’ against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot,” added project co-founder Babak Parviz.

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com