Google X labs (where Google Glass was born) has started researching a smart contact lens for diabetics that would monitor glucose levels by the second, and give the user feedback via an LED light if glucose levels were on the rise or dropping. This project was recently discussed on the official Google Blog.
For diabetics, monitoring your glucose levels is a huge part of your everyday life. I know plenty of diabetics, many of which have a monitor clipped onto their waistband with a sensor fed underneath their skin. Along with this device, daily fingerpricks are also necessary. The are also many dangers associated with the incorrect or lack of blood glucose monitoring. Low blood sugar can cause you to pass out without warning, while high levels can be harmful to the body, leading to diabetic ketoacidosis (aka diabetic coma).
Some statistics show that 1 in 19 people are affected by diabetes (I’d bet it’s even higher in the US), and chronic diabetes patients (the people who are constantly monitoring) are estimated to make up 11% of annual US health care costs. With the large share of healthcare spending that diabetes encapsulates, it is clear that a more efficient, easier way to monitor glucose levels may be a step in the right direction for both patient satisfaction and healthcare expenditures.
The data collected from the microchip embedded in these lenses could be extremely beneficial for diabetes researchers. This is the type of stuff that comes to mind when I hear “Big Data” in health care. If you were to do a study on 100 patients who wore the lens for 6 months and tracked their meals and activity levels, you would have over 1.5 billion data points on blood glucose levels alone. Aside from the research potentials of this device, real-time feedback on glucose levels would help diabetes patients stay within their limits and have less spikes or drops the result in expensive hospital trips.
Although this may not be ready for commercial use for a few years, it is great to see companies investing in health maintenance technology, the type of stuff that will reduce healthcare costs in the long run.