Samsung allotting ‘significant investment’ to bring noninvasive glucose sensor to wearables: Bloomberg

Like Apple before it, Samsung is now striving to add noninvasive blood sugar monitoring to its consumer health devices. Hon Pak, M.D., head of Samsung Electronics’ digital health team, shared as much with Bloomberg in an interview published Monday.

Though Pak didn’t provide a concrete timeline for when a needle-free glucose sensor might be added to Samsung’s Galaxy family of health trackers—which include a line of smartwatches and, newly announced for later this year, a sensor-filled ring—but reportedly expressed hope that the technology could be ready for its wearable debut within the next five years.

“We are looking at everything from miniaturization to the various different technology platforms that can do some type of glucose monitoring or anything in between,” he said.

Apple has long been on a mission to add noninvasive glucose monitoring to its eponymous smartwatches, in hopes of offering the millions of people around the world with diabetes and prediabetes an alternative to currently available blood sugar monitors, the latest of which are worn on the body with a slim needle reaching under the skin and may still occasionally require fingerstick calibrations.

Apple has reportedly spent more than a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars working on technology that could allow its Apple Watches to track glucose levels through the wrist, without ever breaking the skin.

A report from Bloomberg early last year claimed that those efforts had finally reached the proof-of-concept stage, with unnamed sources saying in the February report that the secretive project had recently hit “major milestones” on the path to commercial feasibility—though the technology reportedly still has a ways to go until it actually hits the Apple Watch. Apple, for its part, declined to comment on the report and has long kept the entire project under wraps.

Pak also discussed with Bloomberg the possibility of adding round-the-clock cuffless blood pressure monitoring to Samsung’s wearables—another feature long sought by Apple.

Though Samsung smartwatches since the Active2 device have offered on-the-spot blood pressure measurements, the feature doesn’t work continuously and must be regularly recalibrated with a traditional blood pressure cuff. Pak said Samsung has been “thinking long and hard” about ways to improve the feature, including by having the devices present blood pressure data in a more “meaningful” way than just raw measurements.

“I think we are trying to redefine blood pressure in a way that it was originally intended, which is: How much cardiovascular risk do you have?” he said.

Between that work and the planned blood sugar sensor, Pak suggested that Samsung’s wearables could soon take a major leap forward in the consumer health-tracking space.  

“If we can do continuous blood pressure and glucose, we’re in a whole different ballgame,” he told Bloomberg. “I think that’s where everyone is trying to get to. We’re putting significant investment toward that.”