Google developing a 'smart contact lens' to help diabetes sufferers

The contact lens will monitor glucose levels through tear ducts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 7:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 31 January, 2014, 2:09pm

Nowadays when countless ordinary, everyday objects are increasingly becoming “smart", many of us barely bat an eyelash at announcements of the latest smart tech. 

We get it. Smart phones and smart watches make our lives more productive. Smart bands and smart fit-wear can potentially help us monitor our heartrates during exercise. So what’s next? How can tech developers top what we already have on the market?

Earlier this month, super tech-giant Google announced that they are currently developing a smart contact lens which will be used to help diabetes sufferers monitor and manage their glucose levels.

Gone will be the days when people with diabetes must prick their fingers to collect drops of blood to check their blood glucose levels.

According to project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, their contact lens will include a built-in wireless chip and a miniature glucose sensor which will measure sugar levels in the wearer’s tears.

The contact lens will generate a glucose level reading once per second and can be used as a warning device when the user’s levels reach a dangerous point.

Otis and Parviz also said they would like to integrate tiny LED lights into the lens, which will light up if glucose levels are above or below a certain threshold.

“It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype,” Otis and Parviz wrote in a Google blog announcement. “We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.”

The smart contact lens is the culmination of years of work, and Parviz actually began working with Microsoft in 2011 on a similar protoype concept.

Currently, Google is searching for partners to help bring the product to market and develop apps to make its readings readily available to users and doctors alike.

While there may be a host of "smart" technological gadgets arriving in the forseeable future, none of these devices have been aimed at users suffering from diabetes, which makes Google's project unique.

"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 (PDF) is declaring that the world is 'losing the battle' against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot," wrote Otis and Parvitz on the day of the project's reveal.

The International Diabetes Federation estimates one in ten of the world’s population will have diabetes by 2035. Meanwhile, latest reports in Hong Kong indicate that one in ten Hong Kongers have diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic disorder caused by raised blood glucose levels. While it can be controlled, it cannot be cured. People who suffer from diabetes have to regularly monitor their glucose levels as they are unable to regulate their own blood sugar.