The Google team called Google[x], which focuses on “finding new solutions to big global problems” in healthcare has drawn a tie-up with pharmaceutical giant Novartis, to advance the work on “smart” contact lenses that can measure the wearers’ blood sugar levels, a basic for people with diabetes.
Google already has a platform called Google Fit to measure health metrics such as sleep and exercise on devices running on its android platform but Google Smart Lens is a visionary technology to address diabetes. It is particularly relevant to India, which already has 65 million diabetics, a figure that is expected to top a 100 million by 2030.
The smart contact lens contains a low power microchip, glucose sensor and an almost invisible, hair-thin wireless antennawhich will act as a controller to communicate information to the mobile device to keep the individual informed. The antenna will gather, read, and analyze data. A tiny pinhole in the lens allows for tear fluid to seep into the sensor to measure blood sugar levels. Both the sensor and microchip are embedded between two soft layers of lens material. Power will be drawn from the device which will communicate data via the wireless technology RFID.
Early prototypes they tested could generate a reading once per second. Both the companies said they are planning to add small LED lights that could warn the wearer by lighting up when the glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds.
The electronics lie outside of both the pupil and the iris so there is no damage to the eye. Challenges presented by such a technology are that the LED lights contain the toxic metal arsenic. The performance of the contact lenses in windy environments and teary eyes is unknown.