Suppliers Now Working on New Apple Watch Series 8 Blood Sugar Sensors

It’s the “Holy Grail” of health monitoring.
Apple Watch Health Monitoring Features Credit: ms_pics_and_more / Shutterstock
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Even though the rumour mill almost unanimously believed that this year’s Apple Watch would get a big redesign, everyone pretty much agreed that we shouldn’t expect any big new health-monitoring features. Those, reliable sources said, would be saved for next year. Even the most basic of possible sensors — one to measure body temperature — was said to have been scrapped for this year’s model, although it will most certainly come in the Series 8 next year.

Other health sensors remain more of a mystery, however, since there’s a ton of research and development that has to go into not just getting these sensors working, but ensuring that they’re able to report information reliably. After all, these aren’t just toys — they’re designed to give you useful data on your health and wellness, sometimes even to clinically accurate levels.

Apple has reportedly been working on blood pressure measuring for a few years now, but has been having problems with accuracy. In fact, one report said it almost came to the Series 6 last year, but Apple couldn’t get it to produce consistent results.

Then there’s the so-called “Holy Grail” of health monitoring that Apple has also been pursuing for at least four years now: non-invasive blood glucose measurements. It’s a feature that would make life considerably better for nearly 35 million people in the U.S. alone, who currently have to undergo an inconvenient and uncomfortable process of physically drawing blood samples to be analyzed by an electronic measuring device, often several times each day.

Reports appeared back in 2017 that Tim Cook himself was actively testing an Apple Watch-connected blood glucose monitor, although it’s unclear exactly what came of this, it was undoubtedly a result of the massive team of hardware developers and biomedical engineers that have reportedly been working on this project for nearly a decade.

Once again, however, the challenge is in producing accurate results. Medical researchers in various fields have been working on finding a non-invasive solution for clinically accurate blood glucose monitoring since 1975, but despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars, they have yet to develop a solution that’s accurate enough to produce a viable product.

A new supply chain report is giving us a glimmer of hope that Apple could be closer to cracking this, however, with reports that suppliers are now developing next-generation sensors for the Apple Watch Series 8 that would be used specifically to measure blood glucose levels.

  1. The news comes from DigiTimes, via MacRumors, which notes that Apple has its suppliers working on short-wavelength infrared sensors.
  2. These are commonly used in health devices, but in this case, they’re said to be designed to measure the amount of sugar in the wearer’s blood.
  3. While the report suggests that these components are for the Apple Watch Series 8, slated to arrive next year, it’s unclear if the technology will truly be ready by that time.

Both Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and The Wall Street Journal have independently confirmed that Apple is working on blood glucose monitoring, among several other things, but Gurman says this is “unlikely to be ready for commercial launch for several more years,” while the WSJ’s Rolfe Winkler refers to it as one of several features slated for “beyond next year.”

To be clear, blood glucose monitoring is something that Apple can’t afford to mess around with. For many diabetics, the accuracy of their blood sugar measurements are quite literally a matter of life or death, and there’s a good chance that these sensors will need to receive approval from the FDA and government health agencies in other countries, much like the ECG feature in the Apple Watch Series 4.

Even in that case, the ECG hasn’t been approved by the FDA for actually tracking heart conditions — it’s merely accepted as a sort of early warning system to seek professional medical advice. This is also the only health sensor in the Apple Watch that has received any regulatory approval, as even the Series 6’s blood oxygen sensor is considered a “general wellness” feature that’s not certified by medical experts.

In the case of a blood glucose sensor, Apple doesn’t just have to get the technology working to its own standards, but it also has to convince the FDA that it’s able to do exactly what it says it does — and perform to the FDA’s rigorous standards. We’re not optimistic that Apple is going to clear all those hurdles in time for the Apple Watch Series 8, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t trying.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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