Why Apple’s iWatch won’t measure glucose levels

“It’s widely believed that Apple sometime in 2014 or soon thereafter will introduce what many are calling the ‘iWatch,’ a wearable device capable of tracking all sorts of interesting biometric data,” Yoni Heisler writes for Network World.

“Over the past few months, Apple has hired a formidable team of biomedical experts with deep experience in medical sensor technologies. Notably, many of the folks now working for Apple have done impressive and groundbreaking work in the realm of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM),” Heisler writes. “Many news outlets, as a result, have reported that Apple’s rumored iWatch may be able to non-invasively measure a user’s glucose levels. Such a device would be a godsend for diabetics who often have to monitor their blood glucose levels multiple times a day, either by drawing blood from their finger or through an implanted sensor paired with an external monitoring device.”

“A deeper examination of the issue, however, strongly suggests otherwise,” Heisler writes. “Non-invasive CGM is an incredibly complex problem that presents a number of challenging medical and technological hurdles. Indeed, medical device companies have been trying to solve this problem for decades, with no real success to speak of.”

Read more in the full article here.


    1. Its so amazing to see how these pundits already know what an as of yet unannounced product will and won’t have. I haven’t see this much hot air coming from between the cheeks in a long time.

        1. It’s not that easy CGMS don’t read blood glucose. They read glucose levels in the body’s interseratial fluid. The needle must stay there to get accurate readings. Even with today’s most advanced CGM, once inserted, it takes hours to calibrate with finger sticks.

          1. My wife has to reset her CGM once a week and after each reset she spends the next 12 hours calibrating it. Even after it is calibrated she continues to need finger sticks because it’s accuracy not as good as a finger stick. Where the CGM helps is at night when sleeping it wakes her up or at the gym; whenever her sugar levels move outside the acceptable range. It’s good for a “heads up you have a possible problem” warning but she always confirms with a finger stick.

            Knowing how my wife’s CGM works I would never buy that iWatch would contain CGM capabilities. That is just someone’s fantasy which the media will buy into, Wall street will support, and so when the iWatch arrives and it is not there the stock crashes.

    1. Can you imagine if Apple pulled it off? I wouldn’t put anything past Apple’s capabilities. When you have the money for R&D Apple has, you can make all kinds of miracles happen. Talk about shutting up the naysayers and all those asshole analysts.

      This could be the ultimate, one more thing. I know it’s an extreme long shot, but how cool would it be if they could pull it off? Doesn’t hurt to dream.

        1. Agreed. We can also expect a very sophisticated monitoring system that leaps far ahead of current market offerings.

          Medical will become a huge market for Apple, Inc., far greater than automotive or personal security industries.

          Windows has limited the progression and innovation in the medical industry. In fact, the Veterans Administration is still using Win XP and it adds to the immense suckage.

  1. But it might well display the results of a host of non- Apple wearable elements + apps made by medical instrument makers. Each owner then buys the add-ons for their particular condition.

  2. I am a Type-1 diabetic. I also use a Tandem insulin pump (the touch screen one) and a Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Dexcom is considered the leader in CGM technology. The prase “implanted sensor” is a little misleading. In reality it is a sensor that sticks to the skin with an almost hair think platinum wire that goes in the skin.

    I don’t know how Apple could possibly be working on this for immediate release. FDA clearance will take YEARS. The FDA is critically slow at approving new diabetes technology.

    I also think if Apple were to try and get into the CGM market, they would be skating to where the puck was. I think they would be much more likely to create an App that can READ the data the sensor sends to the receiver.

    Where the future is is an artificial pancreas. Today, there is one in advanced development that hopes to commercially release in 2017. It uses the iPhone to take readings from a sensor and send dosing instructions to an insulin pump thus taking the user out of the decision making process.

    1. How do you like the Dexcom ? My wife is about to return a Medtronic pump & sensor, she doesn’t like the pump at all its not what she expected. She’s better at managing her injections than the pump is. It turned out to be more trouble and no real benefit to her. However to both of us think the CGM part is what we believe would be most beneficial and we thought maybe just a CGM would be in order rather than a full blown pump. I will look into the Dexcom, not sure its available in Canada though.
      I suspect the problem with an iWatch is the sensor would always be piercing the same place, aren’t you supposed to move it around once in a while so you don’t get irritated by the needle always being in the same place ?

      1. I previously used the Medtronic Pump CGM combo. The pump is adequate but their CGM is awful. Constantly proven to be less accurate than the Dexcom. The medtronic also makes their insertion needle from copper, which would irritate my skin. Dexcom is made from platinum and much less irritable. I get a good 2 weeks out of a sensor (although they are only approved for 7 days).

        I think what people are hope here is that Apple creates something that uses light or sweat or oil to detect glucose without having to go inside the body.

        I WOULD LOVE it if Apple could pull this off accurately but dont know how they could effectively navigate the FDA waters. Insulin is a very very very dangerous drug. A slight mis-dosage based off of bad glucose readings would be litigation hell.

        1. Thanks! Another thing, when their sales people explained the pricing of the various components all I could think is, what a racket. It sounds like they designed these things to make big money more than be beneficial to the user. For example I was shocked that the 60-70 dollar sensor lasts for 6 days (recommended), WTF? I can’t believe they can’t make something that lasts much longer.
          And yeah, as soon as you mentioned the litigation point, I immediately thought there’s no way apple is getting into that market.
          Thanks again

          1. If you get the Dexcom, which I highly recommend, they say you can’t wear the sensor more than 6 or 7 days. In reality if the receiver tells you it is time to replace the sensor, you can simply select “start sensor” on the receiver and use it again without removing or replacing. I often get 14-17 days out a Dexcom sensor without sacrificing any accuracy.

            Again that’s not approved, and Dexcom will tell you know to do it, but everyone does.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.