Apple patent hints at non-invasive glucose monitoring tech for Apple Watch

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2018
A patent application published Thursday potentially offers clues into Apple's rumored non-invasive glucose monitoring solution, diabetes tracking technology considered to be a "holy grail" of medical science.


Source: USPTO


Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, Apple's patent application for "Reference switch architectures for noncontact sensing of substances" details methods by which an electronic device can be calibrated to measure the concentration of a particular substance in a given sample.

More specifically, an optical system is configured to perform absorption spectroscopy. The technique enables determination of the concentration of a target substance by applying light with known properties, like wavelength and energy, to a sample. As light passes through the sample, the substance absorbs energy at certain wavelengths, causing the light's properties to change upon exit.

Comparing light transmitted through the sample with reference light allows a exemplary system to detect measured absorbance, such as a loss in intensity. As the concentration of a substance within a sample increases, so does the amount of energy that can be absorbed.

Further, substances display "absorbance peaks," or differences in their ability to absorb light at specific wavelengths, meaning they each have a unique signature when light of a known value is applied. This is known as a spectral fingerprint.




As Apple notes, the technique has limitations. For example, a given sample might contain multiple substances or spectral artifacts, some of which can obscure or otherwise degrade detection of a substance of interest. Additionally, a substance might not be equally distributed throughout a sample.

In particular, the application identifies fluctuations, drifts and variations that could cause accuracy issues.

Apple's invention aims to rectify some of those issues. Among a host of refinements, the application details an apparatus that incorporates specialized light emitters, filters, beamsplitters, short-wavelength infrared (SWIR) detectors and other components to compensate for potential inaccuracies caused by unknown factors.

Beam-splitters are used to create multiple light paths in one example. One path is routed to a sample while another is directed to one of two matched detectors and used as a reference for comparison, thereby reducing error. Another embodiment uses a common detector to further ameliorate inconsistent readings resulting from mismatched components or responses to environmental conditions.

Other methods involve the use of multiple microoptics disposed over discrete detector pixels. These systems measure properties of light reflected off the surface of a sample, such as reflectivity, refractive index, density, concentration, scattering coefficient, scattering anisotropy, absorption and more to determine the concentration of a substance therein.

Apple also mentions techniques of constantly calibrating the system to maintain a high degree of accuracy.




While the document does not specify what substances might be measured by the proposed system, it does note the sample can "include at a least a portion of a user." The application jibes with rumors that Apple is working on a non-invasive glucose monitoring solution for use in Apple Watch.

Tracking glucose, a relatively small molecule, in a user's bloodstream using light-based detection techniques limits Apple's options. Existing scientific methods of identifying the makeup of sample material rely on SWIR and mid-wavelength infrared (MWIR), as explained in Apple's filing. The technology has not been successfully applied to glucose monitoring, though a number of researchers are attempting to find a solution with a related technique called Raman spectroscopy.

Unlike absorption spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, named after physicist C.V. Raman, emits light at a sample and measures the scattered light. A small portion of scattered light shifts in energy due to interactions between the light and vibrational energy levels of a sample. A plot of the shifted light results in a Raman spectrum that can be used to identify the molecular fingerprint, and thereby molecules, of an evaluated substance.

One firm attempting to work Raman spectroscopy into a shipping product was C8 MediSensors. In 2014, MIT Technology Review profiled the now defunct company, noting it attempted to use the technique in a smartphone-connected device that measured glucose levels through the skin.

Though it showed initial promise, raising more than $60 million from the likes of GE Capital and GE Healthcare, C8 ultimately failed to produce a working product. The firm was unable to overcome technical hurdles like user variability, the report said.

Apple reportedly picked up former employees of C8 as part of a 2013 hiring spree. It is perhaps no coincidence that today's patent application covers methods of collecting and measuring scattered light, even though it fails to mention Raman spectroscopy by name.

Apple Watch Sensor


Rumors of an Apple-developed blood sugar monitoring solution began to circulate last year, when reports suggested the company was working on non-invasive technology as a complement to Apple Watch. CEO Tim Cook was at one point said to be personally testing a prototype of such a device.

Tangible evidence of Apple's interest in the technology arrived in the form of a patent infringement lawsuit filed earlier this year by health technology startup Omni MedSci. Omni's founder and CTO, Dr. Mohammed N. Islam, claims Apple approached him in 2014 to discuss his IP covering hardware designed to measure various parameters of a user's blood with LED-based sensors.

Islam contends Apple Watch's heart rate sensor infringes on his patents, claims that are dubious at best. Apple presented Apple Watch and its custom sensor three months after company representatives allegedly met with the inventor, suggesting the technology was finalized months or years prior.

Islam and Apple conducted multiple meetings and continued to correspond with high-ranking executives including VP of product marketing Greg Joswiak until 2016, two years after Apple Watch debuted.

More interesting than Islam's allegations, however, is an asserted patent that covers non-invasive methods of monitoring glucose levels in a patient's blood.

Apple's patent application was first filed for in August 2015 and credits Miikka M. Kangas, Mark Alan Arbore, David I. Simon, Michael J. Bishop, James W. Hillendahl and Robert Chen as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 59
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 3,065member
    This would be a literally life changing advance if it can be made reliable. Something that has so far resisted all attempts to crack this particular nut.

    Reliable non-invasive constant glucose monitoring would be Nobel worthy.
    davensphericanton zuykovlongpathdewmepalomineJWSCargonautjony0
  • Reply 2 of 59
    And sell a helluva lot of watches!
    mwhiteanton zuykovJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 59
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,833member
    Soon to countless Apple Watch copycats:  Apple, Alphabet's R&D division .....
    edited August 2018 lkruppanton zuykovlongpathclaire1berndogJWSCwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 59
    Reliability is key if we are to trust the readings.  So far, the AW heart rate monitor hasn't proven to be reliable enough for me and that should be relatively simple.  

    Is there any possibility this will be in the AW4, or is it too early?
  • Reply 5 of 59
    Apple is working on this holly grail for long. And failed several times. When they succeed then as somebody said will "sell a helluva lot of watches!" And it will be hard to copycat that. Also because ReseachKit and other software connected to it.
    longpathargonaut
  • Reply 6 of 59
    I’m skeptical Apple will be the first to bring this to market. Wouldn’t it need FDA approval? Seems to me it would start in the medical devices community and once proven to work Apple could bring it to the masses.
  • Reply 7 of 59
    Cesar Battistini MazieroCesar Battistini Maziero Posts: 141unconfirmed, member
    deminsd said:
    Reliability is key if we are to trust the readings.  So far, the AW heart rate monitor hasn't proven to be reliable enough for me and that should be relatively simple.  

    Is there any possibility this will be in the AW4, or is it too early?
    Well the heart monitor is used in scientific research and it's the most accurate of it's kind.

    So either your model is defective, or you are doing something wrong.

    I trust Apple could develop a glucose monitor that works!
    racerhomie3longpathGeorgeBMacclaire1berndogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 59
    Cesar Battistini MazieroCesar Battistini Maziero Posts: 141unconfirmed, member

    I’m skeptical Apple will be the first to bring this to market. Wouldn’t it need FDA approval? Seems to me it would start in the medical devices community and once proven to work Apple could bring it to the masses.
    Maybe the investment needed for this is not interesting for medical companies, or Apple just gathered the right people at the right time.

    Or they just have a lot of cash.
    radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 59
    AAnativeAAnative Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Just wondering why the author thinks this is points to glucose monitoring?  From what I can tell spo2 or pulse oximetry is more likely and more achievable in watch form?  They hired several people away from Massimo after all.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 59
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 19,678member
    avon b7 said:
    This would be a literally life changing advance if it can be made reliable. Something that has so far resisted all attempts to crack this particular nut.

    Reliable non-invasive constant glucose monitoring would be Nobel worthy.
    LifePlus claims to have cracked this nut too with their Lifeleaf wearable. Seems like the problem may finally be really close to being solved?
    https://www.wareable.com/health-and-wellbeing/lifeplus-lifeleaf-continuous-blood-glucose-2103

    Best of all they don't want to be the only hardware provider, in fact not really interested in a self-branded watch at all. They are open-sourcing much of it and licensing the software.

    BUT....
    It's claimed by experts in the field that reliable non-invasive glucose monitoring is impossible as it would "require changing the laws of physics" so it will be super-interesting to see what the results of the current patient trials at LifePlus are. 
    https://www.wareable.com/health-and-wellbeing/noninvasive-glucose-tracking-impossible-valencell-1268

    BTW, Wareable.com is a great source for keeping up with the latest developments in smartwatches and similar tech. One of my go-to's. 
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 11 of 59
    frantisek said:
    Apple is working on this holly grail for long. And failed several times. When they succeed then as somebody said will "sell a helluva lot of watches!" And it will be hard to copycat that. Also because ReseachKit and other software connected to it.

    Failed? Gee, I didn't know Apple already released a glucose monitor to the public that didn't work properly, and thus failed.
    brucemcRayz2016claire1StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 59
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Maybe Apple could get insurance companies to pay for AppleWatch. They might even get insurance regulators to require that they do.

    Think how many watches they would sell! And then all those people would need iPhone too. This would be a bonanza for AAPL.
    claire1
  • Reply 13 of 59
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,255member
    deminsd said:
    Reliability is key if we are to trust the readings.  So far, the AW heart rate monitor hasn't proven to be reliable enough for me and that should be relatively simple.  

    Is there any possibility this will be in the AW4, or is it too early?
    You’re wrong about that. I don’t know what your comparison is from. Mine is extremely accurate. When I was in the hospital, after getting a warning about high heart rate from my watch, which was correct, I found that mine matched the hospital’s equipment that I was connected to by plus or minus one point. This was for 4 days at first, then when I went back, for another week and a half.

    while I can’t say what you’re doing, I’ve found that people who do complain to me about it are wearing their watches too loosely. Another thing which plagues certified medical equipment, as told to me by a doctor, is that occasionally, the measurement coincides with the rise, or fall, of the heartbeat, resulting in a momentary high, or low count, or apparent dropout of a reading.
    racerhomie3GeorgeBMacStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 59
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,530member
    I’m skeptical Apple will be the first to bring this to market. Wouldn’t it need FDA approval? Seems to me it would start in the medical devices community and once proven to work Apple could bring it to the masses.
    Did the current heart rate monitor feature need FDA approval before it was brought to market? If a glucose monitor is clearly marketed as a non-medical device for informational purposes only would it need FDA approval? What’s the difference? Both devices monitor bodily functions. What about all the other devices currently on the market claiming to monitor your state of health?
    JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 59
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,255member

    I’m skeptical Apple will be the first to bring this to market. Wouldn’t it need FDA approval? Seems to me it would start in the medical devices community and once proven to work Apple could bring it to the masses.
    No more so that a heart rate monitor. It’s non invasive, and as long as Apple, or anyone, isn’t selling this as a medical device, it’s fine. But Apple has had ongoing talks with the FDA for several years, so we don’t how far all of that is going.
    edited August 2018 StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 59
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,255member

    AAnative said:
    Just wondering why the author thinks this is points to glucose monitoring?  From what I can tell spo2 or pulse oximetry is more likely and more achievable in watch form?  They hired several people away from Massimo after all.
    Because this patent points to glucose monitoring. We can be sure that Apple is pursuing several fronts at once. Which tests come out first isn’t an indication of how long they’ve been working on it, or the resources expended. Apple has hired a major team of well known, and top end doctors, and others. They could very well be researching many aspects of health. This involves very sophisticated software, chip advances as well as the sensor devices we see in this patent. Not every company can do all of this by themselves. Apple is in a unique position.
    edited August 2018 JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 59
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,488member
    As noted in the article and some comments, Apple could very well have this targeted at other sensor types other than glucose monitoring.  But my point below applies in either case.

    If Apple develops these sensors on their own (in-house, or exclusively with partners), then by adding them to Apple Watch they will truly leap ahead of the competition on those functions alone.  The Apple Watch will become the iPod of wrist wearables, but in an (eventual) much larger market.

    If a 3rd party develops the (wrist wearable) sensors independently of Apple, what are the going to do?  Try to start their own smart watch product?  Sell to those with only a small market share?  Or sell to all - including the leading smart watch vendor with majority of market share and most of the premium market?  So then Apple has the sensors for AW and ability to move the most, sell at the highest ASPs to get the best sensors. 

    In other words, Apple will win in either case.
    tjwolfwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 59
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,255member
    gatorguy said:
    avon b7 said:
    This would be a literally life changing advance if it can be made reliable. Something that has so far resisted all attempts to crack this particular nut.

    Reliable non-invasive constant glucose monitoring would be Nobel worthy.
    LifePlus claims to have cracked this nut too with their Lifeleaf wearable. Seems like the problem may finally be really close to being solved?
    https://www.wareable.com/health-and-wellbeing/lifeplus-lifeleaf-continuous-blood-glucose-2103

    Best of all they don't want to be the only hardware provider, in fact not really interested in a self-branded watch at all. They are open-sourcing much of it and licensing the software.

    BUT....
    It's claimed by experts in the field that reliable non-invasive glucose monitoring is impossible as it would "require changing the laws of physics" so it will be super-interesting to see what the results of the current patient trials at LifePlus are. 
    https://www.wareable.com/health-and-wellbeing/noninvasive-glucose-tracking-impossible-valencell-1268

    BTW, Wareable.com is a great source for keeping up with the latest developments in smartwatches and similar tech. One of my go-to's. 
    Nonsense. That the ceo of a sensor manufacturer who doesn’t have the capability of doing this, saying that they “think” it’s impossible? There’s nothing about the laws of physics that makes this impossible. Apple’s patent states the problems, and they’re serious, but certainly not impossible. This is a technological problem, not a theoretical one.
    edited August 2018 GeorgeBMacJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 59
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,255member

    nunzy said:
    Maybe Apple could get insurance companies to pay for AppleWatch. They might even get insurance regulators to require that they do.

    Think how many watches they would sell! And then all those people would need iPhone too. This would be a bonanza for AAPL.
    That’s already being done. Several either give the watch to employees, or give a big discount. At least one offers the watch to customers at a discount, or free. There may be more by now.

    when I was in the emergency ward, almost all of the doctors and nurses was wearing one. When I asked on of the nurses why, she said “Why take a chance?”
    GeorgeBMacnunzyJWSCpalominewatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 59
    Incredible tech and a game changer if they can get it working, which is likely only a matter of time. FDA will approve at least for trend monitoring, if not for insulin dosing. Depends on the accuracy they’re able to achieve. Initially it may be sufficient only for basal requirements for long-acting insulins. 

    There’s a reason apple is spending over $1.1 billion a month on R&D, and it’s not for failed moonshots. This is amazingly high tech, and I think Apple has the team in place to pull it off. 
    edited August 2018 JWSCwatto_cobra
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