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How Google's smart-lens technology could bring tears of joy to diabetics worldwide...(0)

posted on   21st July 2014



(Photo by Alden Chadwick.  Flickr Creative Commons Licence)



It might be a simple prick of the finger, but for diabetes sufferers,  testing blood can be an all too painful common occurrence.

Diabetes UK estimates that by 2025, over 5 million people in the UK will be living with this difficult disease.

Catherine, a life-long sufferer, agrees: “I think there is one part of living with the disease which gets you down, and that’s the multiple injection’s," she said.

However, that could all be about to change, and guess what? Google is in on it.

Fusing technology with biology, they’re developing a smart-contact lens. A secretive sub-division,  [X] , are behind it;  the one’s behind Google Glass and internet weather balloons. Crazy.

Last week Google announced a partnership with Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis, a major player in world pharmaceuticals. Novartis are one of several healthcare companies targeting the ‘wearable technology’ market - a key growth sector.

Their eye care division, Alcon, hope to utilize Google’s miniaturised technology to bring tears of joy to diabetics worldwide.

It’s tears they’ll need too, because the smart-lens will measure blood-glucose levels from tear samples collected on the eyelid, sending data wirelessly to a smartphone, alerting you if those levels drop suddenly.

The time-consuming chore of constantly checking levels could be eradicated with the smart-lens, shouldering this huge burden for a diabetic person.

Simon O’Neill, Diabetes UK’s Director of Health Intelligence, said:

“We welcome any investment in new technology that might one day have the potential to make this easier for people or to offer them more choice.”

Mr O’Neill is keen to stress however that much more research is needed before we know more about this technology,

“We have no idea how likely it is to develop into something that is routinely available or how long this might take to happen”, he said.

Glasses wearers worldwide may also benefit from the new technology. It is hoped that one day a simple hospital procedure could help correct the eye's natural auto-focus., correcting the vision of millions.

The smart-lens could be inserted via an “intraocular lens implant” procedure, permanently fixing the smart-contact lens to the eye and correcting its vision.

This marriage of biology and technology will have huge implications for the health industry.


Already we are seeing a wave of smart-phone apps dedicated to health and well-being. Smart-lenses and watches will facillitate these further, bringing Google's vision to life.

There’s also the huge market for blood testing products. Accu-Check, Bayer, OneTouch; all big names in the blood-glucose market. But, how will they embrace the new technology?

Research firm GlobalData says that the market for blood sugar monitors is expected to reach £7bn by 2017. Will we see a new generation of smart-blood-testing-products hitting the shelves?

Furthermore, if Google can one day correct our vision, where will this leave Specsavers? Should Specsavers themselves have gone to Specsavers, because they didn’t see this one coming?

And last but not least, when is the everyman going to benefit? When will we be casually strutting around in our smart-lenses? A nine-month waiting list for a smart-lens procedure, springs to mind.

Can the taxpayer foot that kind of expense on surgery? Can we really see people getting this done on the NHS?

This all might sound great on paper, but will it work practically? Catherine disagree’s.

“I think for some people this could be great, especially if you hate blood testing.

“However, If you don’t want to, or can’t wear contact lenses, then its not going to be much use.

“My life changed when I went on the insulin pump. If they were able to connect the lens to the pump then I think people would be much more interested in the product, she said.

For more information about diabetes, visit Diabetes UK.