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🍰 Good morning! My birthday was yesterday and I still have some cake. Which is oddly topical for the main story we have here...
January 25, 2021
2021: Glucose monitoring wearables from Samsung and Apple?
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active logo screen

Take it from this Type 1 diabetic that any kind of improvement to monitoring blood-glucose (BG) levels is incredibly welcome.

If you don’t even know what that is or why it matters, great! That hopefully means you’re very healthy and it’s never come up before.

Skip this next part if you do already know about it, and disclaimers that I’m not exactly licensed for medical advice!

Why BG-monitoring?

  • Essentially, this is the level of sugar (in the form of glucose) available in your bloodstream at any one time. Steady rates are great, high or lows are bad and cause both short-term and long-term complications.
  • Monitoring these levels useful for people who are undiagnosed is being able to understand if you show a consistently higher-than-normal blood-glucose level, or for diabetics to track the body’s reaction to food, exercise, and so on.
  • Active monitoring can lead to discovering anything from the onset of Type 1 diabetes (directly related to the loss of insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas through an auto-immune response) or Type 2 diabetes (more related to problems with insulin sensitivity), or other forms like gestational diabetes.

In any case, tech and diabetics aren’t always friends. Over-promises from tech are to be expected. Healthcare is hard, understanding the endocrine system and hormones is not easy, and finger pricking for rapid, fairly low-cost blood testing is still the gold standard even if it can be painful and generally a PITA. Or PITF, as it were.

However! Smart devices do exist now: I wear a BG device with a teeny-tiny little flexible needle/wire sensor(Engadget). It that sticks to the skin and lasts two weeks at a time, tracking changes to interstitial fluid.

  • It’s by no means perfect, but its reports are easily good enough, and it connects to Android and iOS phone apps, although it has limitations. 
  • But, it’s FDA approved, and health insurances may contribute to the ongoing costs depending on what you pay for. It’s still expensive and tricky, even if it’s very good compared to occasional readings via finger pricks.

But as we talked about previously, companies are trying to go one step further: wearables that can sense blood-glucose levels.

In brief, we’ve seen:

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly wearing a prototype Apple Watch with BG-monitoring in years gone by, with reports the next Apple Watch (Series 7?) may offer it as a feature.
  • Fitbit, now owned by Alphabet, bought promising technology back in 2018 in BG-monitoring. 
  • Most significantly in recent times, CES 2021 saw a first prototype from Tokyo-based startup Quantum Operations of a non-invasive wearable glucose monitor that doesn’t require a needle to be inserted into the skin.
  • The tech here is spectroscopy, using mild lasers to track chemical composition changes, which present on the skin. 
  • Samsung talked about a form of this called Raman spectroscopy about a year ago.

The new news:

samsung galaxy watch 3 review advanced running metrics
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

What’s new is that there are signs Samsung is close to offering blood-glucose monitors via spectroscopy in its flagships wearables, not as a speciality device, but in its next Watch release: either the Galaxy Watch 4 or the Galaxy Watch Active 3, or possibly both. 

Korea’s ETNews had the scoop:

  • Quote: “…[Samsung] is now getting ready to include a blood glucose level measurement feature and cause the global healthcare market based on wearable devices to be in full swing [sic].”
  • And so, Samsung will “[…] introduce three new wearable devices that can be worn on wrist during Galaxy UNPACKED 2021 that will be held this second half [sic]. It is reported that the name of the smart watch with an ability to measure blood glucose level will be either “Galaxy Watch 4” or “Galaxy Watch Active 3”.
  • That detail goes further than reports I’ve seen of the Apple Watch Series 7, and may set up 2021 to be the year where blood-glucose levels are tracked both by Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics, but the general population as well.
  • It’s unclear if these devices will be FDA approved or if they’ll be wellness devices that offer insight, without promising to deliver accuracy.
  • I started to write this sentence: “It’s unclear how this will be marketed,” but wait, I do know. Levels is a startup revolving around the promise that people dedicated to fitness and regular folks worried about their health can get answers.
  • That may eventually lead to discretion around sugar intake. 
  • Or, overcaution — a big bowl of pasta will raise your blood-glucose levels, but for healthy people that’s completely normal. How will that be communicated?
Roundup

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🚀 SpaceX (finally) launched a record 143 satellites on one rocket in its first “rideshare” mission, with booster landing too (Space). Here’s how it looked, including 30 small sats arranged as payloads, too, by Berlin HQ’d Exolaunch (Twitter).

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Meme Monday

The Bernie-Sanders-in-mittens memes aptly summarized in a meme:

meme week jan
r/me_irl
All the best to start your week,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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