Apple has been named as the biggest client for UK medical sensor firm Rockley Photonics, giving more fuel to the rumors of an increased portfolio of medical features coming to the Apple Watch.
According to a report in The Telegraph (opens in new tab), Rockley Photonics has developed sensors that are able to accurately read blood signals using only infrared light, beamed through the skin. This could be placed on the back of a smartwatch and enable it to track blood pressure, alcohol levels and even blood glucose.
Currently, over 34.2 million Americans have a form of diabetes (1 in 10 people), while the UK has over 4.8 million (1 in 14). Diabetics need to monitor their blood glucose levels, at all times – often using a finger stick test (taking a small amount of blood from the fingertip).
New solutions allow for constant monitoring on apps but still require a device to be placed on the body, with a small needle to measure the blood. A non-evasive solution, provided by a smartwatch could be a game-changer.
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The sensors could also help detect prediabetes in millions more users – a precursor to type 2 diabetes – as well as help provide health information for those looking to make better food choices. Glucose levels often spike (even in non-diabetics) after eating certain foods, which can cause weight gain. These spikes depend in the person, so monitoring them could help a user lose weight, or just stay healthy.
Blood pressure monitoring would allow the Apple Health app to provide an even better picture of your total health and warn of high or low blood pressure well before your next doctors' appointment. Meanwhile, measuring blood alcohol could be used to self-monitor whether you are safe to drive. Or even stop you sending a drunk text (finally!).
While there is no official word on whether one or any of these sensors will make its way on to the 2022 Apple Watch – expected to be the Apple Watch Series 8 – Apple has long expressed an interest in offering more health features on the device. Steve Jobs, who had diabetes in the later stages of his fight with cancer, first authorized research into glucose readers for the Apple Watch.