172 thoughts on “One diabetic’s take on Google's Smart Contact Lenses”

  1. Hey Om, good thoughts. As a type 1 diabetic myself, I feel that this is definitely a step in the right direction, if not the end of the journey. For example, I fully expect Google Glass to kind of suck when they first come out, but I have a hard time looking 5 years down the road and seeing them (or other models) still being terrible. Similarly, I think these contacts will *work* when they first come out, but will be expensive and far from perfect. But if they can get them out there, then we can test them, refine them, and then some 15 year old kid (they’re always 15, why is that?) will come up with a way to make them for super cheap. It has to start somewhere though. I can’t wait to try them out, they would change my life.

    1. As a type one diabetic myself, I completely agree with this comment. These would be life changing for me.

      1. I think you guys are ignoring everything Om said here. But even he didn’t mention all the reasons why this is a bad idea.

        How much work is it to wear contacts? It’s a lot of work! Diabetics can’t wear long term contacts. If they do wear them, they must take them out at least one time every day for some time. Preferably more than that, to give the eye some time to recover. They certainly can’t wear “permanent”. Contacts, for days at a time.

        Cleaning contacts properly, with the correct solution is very important for anyone wearing them, but is especially important for diabetics. Some cleaning fluids may not be proper for a diabetic, as they may cause a reaction.

        Overall, it could be more work wearing contacts for this purpose than using the increasingly advanced tools that can be obtained currently, and in the future, some of which may not require pricking a finger for blood.

        Then there is the question of what percentage of people need contacts. If you don’t, are you going to wear these just for this purpose? I don’t think a lot of people would want that.

        In addition, it’s nice for you guys to think this would work for you at some point, but you are just a small subset of diabetics. As Om mentioned, most diabetics can’t afford a doctor’s visit, much less these contacts, even if they are eventually cheaper than they would be now.

        Overall, a bad idea.

        1. Surely you’re not actually considering the work to take them out once per day and do a decent job of cleaning to be a dealbreaker here — are you?

          I have worn prescription contact lenses for 20 years and taken them off every day for a total of 7300 days or 14600 times I’ve stood at the sink to take them out or put them in. And I gladly do it, even though it’s not a literal life saver and I could wear glasses if I had to.

          So, yeah, I think that plenty of people will consider that a small price to pay to add years to their life through better monitoring, even if they “must take them out at least one time every day” and can’t wear “permanent” contacts.

          By the way, even with contacts that can be worn over night, you don’t want to. My eyes need a break after a day of wear, and if I fall asleep with them, my eyes dry out and the contacts suction onto my eyes. Not pleasant! So I’ll just keep on putting them on and taking them off every day, just for a bit of convenience.

    2. As a type 1, I consider technologies like this potential life-changers. I use an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and a diabetic alert dog (alerts me to highs and lows – pretty cool). I can echo Om’s sentiment – it’s a real pain to have to manage something like this every day, making so many adjustments in my lifestyle just to maximize my time in the ‘normal’ range without encountering uncomfortable and potentially fatal insulin overdoses.

      Perhaps distinguishing between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes would help a bit here. Type 1 diabetes isn’t disproportionately diagnosed in different socio-economic groups as Type 2 is (so far as I know). And it’s not caused by lifestyle or diet issues (clearly related to the previous statement). For a Type 1, other than dietary advice and a flexible schedule, fancy machines really do make a world of a difference. I am privileged to be able to afford all of this expensive stuff (pump, CGM, adequate supplies of other kinds) and to be able to see doctors regularly. I know (as an American living in England right now) that even post-industrial, socialized healthcare systems struggle to provide this kind of stuff to people at reasonable costs. So no, this kind of tech isn’t a big solution right now. Of course, as Aaron points out, we need to see how the technology develops. As with CGM techs, first adopters will be wealthier and will be buying costlier, crappier techs at first. But things may get efficient, both in terms of production and in terms of quality.

      Returning to the question of diabetics generally, I wholeheartedly agree with Om that if Google wants to make the biggest difference for diabetics as a group, so mostly Type 2 diabetics like Om, this is not the way to do it. Especially considering what Om brought up – economic stratification and issues like plain-old food availability that fancy contacts won’t solve. If Google is interested in cyborg-style techs, then they can help some diabetics a lot (I would absolutely wear contacts if they helped a lot with my BG control). But if the Google mission is to help the larger population of diabetics, Type 2s, then they won’t be able to do it this way. It doesn’t seem like this low-tech project is their mission, however.

      1. My son is Type 1 diagnosed at 4 not 15 he is 14 now. I do find the advances in technology reassuring but this is unrealistic. My son has good vision and why would I want him to place contacts in his eyes when he does not need them to see properly. This poses exposing his eyes to infections, irritations, that in a diabetics can have adverse effects and cause more problems. I am a nurse as well and wonder of the actual accuracy of tears in comparison to blood. As many of you know with your CGM they may not be accurate all the time and you have to monitor your blood sugars to maintain calibration. The research is encouraging but I am waiting for the CURE for TYPE 1 now that money I will gladly invested in and I would give my pancreas if I could and I KNEW he would not have to live with TYPE 1, I would live with diabetes over him ANY DAY.

    3. I absolutely agree with you aarondfrancis — for Type 1/Juvenile diabetics – and I think that it’s pretty important to point out to people that Type 1 is NOT caused by poor living habits – For Type 1 people, this is a true game changer. My very athletic and active teen was recently diagnosed with Type 1 and this would improve the quality of his life tremendously. The author of this article clearly has Type 2, caused by poor eating and smoking habits and should have articulated the giant difference in the two types in this article. This oversight always bothers me tremendously, as Type 1/Juvenile and Type 2 are completely different.

      For healthy kids who, through absolutely NO fault or poor habits get Type 1, these lenses would be fantastic and I would be first in line to buy them for my child.

  2. Twat, google are a tech company, you might as well wonder why general motors dont develop a solution unrelated to cars

          1. I believe the question is, what specifically would you say or suggest? I have a guess as to what it might be, but perhaps I will be pleasantly surprised when you come back with an excellent, knowledgeable answer.

          2. So you simply want to criticize him because he said something about Google that wasn’t outrageously positive? Ok, we get it.

          3. Wow, Krud sure knows a lot about twats, except how to identify others.
            Sorry about your affliction, but if you live in North America, I’m not at all surprised. Everything including water appears to have insane amounts of some type of sucrose or HFCS. After recently holidaying in the states for 4 1/2 weeks, I put on 3 kilos and still only had 1 1/2 to 2 meals a day and walked 100 or so blocks a day, mostly not even finishing the ridiculously large portions. Finding fresh or even interesting food was very difficult as a tourist with little spare time. I don’t know how the locals cope with this onslaught from the “food” manufacturing conglomerates trying to poison the nation. I suppose they’re working with the pharmaceuticals to produce a nation dependent on their treatments.
            Then there’s the Monsantos and their frankenfoods trying to lock out or sue out of existence, the normal family farms and food chains of last century.
            BTW, a big hello to the NSA and co, guardians of their corporate friends. Maybe I should have misspelled Moresanto.

          4. Head up your arse, i repeat, google are a tech company dont expect them to behave like anything else.

          5. patch on skin with sensor communicating with smartphone IS a technical product fitting a TECH company. A more sensible one than a lenses.

          6. I know. I sometimes wonder why people like you leave their utopias in countries that they never name to visit the backward North Americans.

          7. @Krod,

            One day you’ll wake up and realize that tech companies need to make products for real people. Of course, Google isn’t really a tech company. They’re an advertising company and toward that end they spy on you more than the NSA dare even dream. They’re spying is more dangerous to you because it can directly affect your job prospects.

          8. And if they dont make products for real people they wont remain a tech company or any sort of company for long, so not sure why you think they dont/wont

          9. Wherever you may claim to come from Art, rest assured that your country is just as “bad”, or even worse. Those countries that have expressed “surprise” that the NSAs propping, have been shown to have programs that are as much, or even more, intrusive.

            And if you can’t find fresh food here, I can easily call you out for BS.

            So, what paradise are you from?

      1. They are increasingly becoming an all round consumer technology company. The days of Google being an advertising company are quickly coming to an end.

        1. I think the point about their being an advertising company is that they make very little money (esp profits) outside of advertising.

          And this isn’t just relative to their advertising numbers. The absolute revenues (and profits, if they even exist) are minuscule.

        1. Ding ding ding. Google wants to get patents on technology for contact lens transmission of data. I kinda doubt that there would be contact lens projection into your eye in the near future, but a first step might be to have on-eye control of a Google Glass type display.

          1. Of course, can you imagine the advantages to them to have the information of millions of diabetics? That information would be worth a lot.

    1. I’m quite certain that GM considers how humans might use their cars during the design process, krod. Despite being a car company, they do understand that their products are rather pointless without an end user.

      Now perhaps you could explain why being a “tech company” (really an advertising company, but we can ignore that for the purposes of this discussion) Google would not want to do the same, nor how this illustrates some deep secret of how the world works.

      1. Because GM, Apple, GE and other companies that make their money from real products need that information in order to make better, more relevant products. That makes a lot of sense.

        Google needs that information to sell to advertising companies, which is where they make their money.

        For GM, Apple, GE and other product companies, the product is the end game, and the collecting of information is a step towards that. But for Google, the advertising, and sale of our personal information is the end game, and their so called products is the step towards that.

        It has to be understood, that we are not their customers, even if we do buy a Google “product”. We are Google users, and part of that product, or rather, our personal information, is the product.

        These contacts are no different. Google doesn’t really care about diabetics, they care about the value of the information this would provide to Google, that they can sell for a profit. Any benefit to the user would depend on whether that benefit would also benefit Google. So if a pharmaceutical company said that there was other data they needed, and would ve willing to pay for, Google would add that “feature” tor the device or service, acting as though it was for the users benefit.

        Now, indirectly, it could eventually benefit the users, if something helpful could be develioped from that data. But everyone using that would be an unconsenting member of a long term study that would be saving these companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

        What happens to medical confidentiality here? Supposedly, this data would be anonymized. But as we know, it would be easily compromised, especially if an Android device was used to collect, and transmit this data.

        Do we really want that?

      2. Not sure its a deep secret, just an obvious one, tech companies behave like tech companies, to expect then to do otherwise is daft, and thats one of the ways the world works

        1. “tech company” is a meaningless distinction here in 2014, and using that phrase to describe Google betrays a VAST misunderstanding of both how the world works and how Google works

          1. Youve missed the point, which is that companies of whatever kind behave like companies of whatever kind, not like something they are not, thats one of the ways the world works whether its liked or not

  3. Yea Om, you will never give Google a break. Whenever they announce something you’ll find a way to crack them. Remember this is just a test, they are not product yet. Google might be trying to gather data to improve it through testing.

    Yea I understand they are not Apple.

    1. This is not about Apple and Google. Seriously. That is for another day.

      What they are trying to do — even that is not clear. They don’t state their intentions, except some ambiguous statements. My point on this — so many smart people, so much money, so much effort — why not approach the problem in a more pragmatic way. Maybe I am harsh on them, but then they want to do “moonshots” and I am pointing out another approach.

      1. I really believe that their entire reason for existance is to find ways to collect more date. Every “product” they come out with is aimed at that. It’s useful to a consumer, otherwise they wouldn’t use, or buy them, and Google’s purpose couldn’t then be fulfilled. But Google doesn’t seem to be interested in products per se. Much of what they do is for publicity, to gain positive public reaction, and positive write ups.

        I’m sorry, but this is very much about Google, what they do, and why. I don’t blame companies for “moonshot” products. It’s the purpose of those products that I question. Google is very deceptive, and the press is very accepting of what they do, rarely criticizing them for anything.

        If almost any other large company came out with a medical device that would transmit personal data as this would, it wouldn’t bother me too much, but when Google does it, it bothers me a great deal.

        1. Oh no! They will collect data about ocular glucose and use it to serve ads for McFlurries at the appropriate blood sugar levels!

          I didn’t immediately realize that Gruber linked me to Kubrick and not tech, but the levels of FUD here have literally reached “precious bodily fluids” levels.

      2. There it is!!! You have no idea what they are doing nor there approach. Interesting that you you are so confident in your assumptions that you would dedicate an article to their short-comings. How are you so sure that the contact wouldn’t be made of a material that you could wear all day! Do contacts lenses not advance? Perhaps be grateful for whatever insight their research may provide and focus your ire on those charged with the task of actually finding a cure. It is no more Google’s task to manage your diabetes than it is BMW’s to get your hair to grow, even if they they choose to dabble in that field.

      3. What I believe is that they are approaching it initially as a wearable computer but along a way discovered the possibility of having application in aiding diabetic patients. As mentioned in the article, they are “investigating the potential ” of said application. The original aim of the project was probably never targeted at diabetic. This is pretty common in the field of research and development, some times you just stumbled upon unexpected new possibility where well might seem like a great idea at first but probably not if more time is spend into it, as what you have pointed out.

      4. Google is not a medical company. Their job is not to alleviate or manage diabetes. They’re not qualified to do so.

        What they are is a tech company, one which is focusing R&D on wearable technology. This is one such application of wearable technology.

        That it doesn’t suit you personally or alleviate the plight of poverty-stricken diabetics is irrelevant, and is just as absurd as complaining about Apple and Nike working on toys related to cardiovascular exercise instead of launching a nationwide healthy living campaign.

        Who knows what this will lead to? The first steps towards pacemakers were made half a century before they became viable and useful.

    2. Funny how the google boosters can’t even spell colloquialisms like yeah, or was it meant to be ye (olde english). Who knows? Who cares? Poor google, give ’em a break Om, they mean no harm….do they? Hows your google plus spam going?

      1. Fart

        As flaubert wrote in his letter to turgenev, it is not for the greatest, but for the lesser masters, to compose models of style.

    3. Whatever Apple comes up with will be better and Google and Samsung will copy that is a given. Another Google Moonshot!

    4. “Remember this is just a test, they are not product yet. ”

      THAT is exactly the issue: WHEN they will do a _product_ to sell and improve people’s tools ?

      Google Glass should be one, google cars too, that lenses too. but NO, it’s just AGAIN a “a test to gather data to improve it through testing”

  4. Nice posting Om and some very good points.
    If you would like to have a chance at reversing your diabetes check out the Reversing Diabetes page on Facebook.
    Many of us have done just that through a low carb diet.

  5. Very well said Om.
    The other thing that concerns me is that there is no data at the moment to support tear glucose level being a good proxy for blood glucose. There are so many questions to figure out there that it really does seem that if the same flexible and miniaturized circuits had been applied to a skin patch it would have resulted in a useful sensor much sooner.

    One has to wonder if the timing of this PR assault for a Google X project with no clear path to production might be something of an attempt to whitewash the backlash from the Next acquisition…

    1. That what clinical trials of this technology will have to prove whether measuring glucose levels in tears is a good proxy for blood glucose. Phase 1 trial will probably involve patients doing both the finger prick test and wearing the lenses and comparing the data to see if they match up.

      The announcement it more likely to be connected with the facts that now Google appears ready to engage in clinical trials the circle of people involve in this project will grow dramatically and the likelihood of them keep their mouths shut about Google involvement is zero.

  6. I think you missed this by a country mile….. most diabetics that can’t wear contacts are ones that already have eye issues or wear contacts for a prolonged period. Can the contact lense be a disease vector absolutely but so can the strips. On top of that if the lenses are used as just as a diagnoses method (i.e. wear for a few hours then stop) then it could be very useful. When you live in a third world country getting any supplies can be an issue. Even worse is trying to maintain equipment (including getting batteries) for monitoring your blood sugar. This idea is a step in the right direction so don’t shoot it down before it has a chance to mature.

    1. John

      I think being a patient and having poor eyes, I have done all the research into contacts and was told by doctors, not random people that it might not be a good option. I think it is important to pursue new breakthroughs and I appreciate Google for trying, but this is something that needs a lot more input from actual patient community than just devising a device.

      1. Om, I don’t doubt that you can’t use contact lenses. But please don’t extrapolate that to most people with Type II diabetes. I have it as well. All though obviously not as advanced a stage as yours. I’m still on pills and I do yearly checkup of my eyes which thankfully are still fine. It’s possible that you may have Glaucoma already. I have no restrictions on wearing contact lenses. I have no intentions of doing that since I find them very uncomfortable. And I’d prefer a patch I could use on my arms as well. But don’t shoot down ideas just because it doesn’t apply to you. Google throws a lot of things at the walls and picks the ones that stick. That is an admirable quality – and one far too few companies do any more.

        1. To add to this, I’m almost 30 with type 1. I’ve had it since I was 6 and have never had any restrictions on contact lenses. I get where Om is coming from, I just feel the article is lumping all diabetics into one group.

      2. As a patient and having very poor eyesight, neither my eye doctor or gp has told me not to wear contacts. Also, have you priced some of the contacts? They aren’t expensive, I wear disposables and I have a slight asigmatism. The electronics would be expensive and that would be the case whether it is a patch or contact lens. I think some money should be spent on why there is such an increase, be it from more and more processed foods, HFCS or whatever.

        1. Bdolphin

          Lot of different opinions on this — lot of studies say differently from your experience — also glad to hear you get to wear contacts. I have settled with glasses for now and using exercise to control my situation. Good luck on your end.

          Thanks for the comment

      3. You talk about Google not being pragmatic, and that a skin patch would be better.
        Unfortunately, even though we all would like it, the technology to measure glucose through the skin does not exist. Current sensors need to be imbedded through the skin and that brings a high risk of infection. So this is a step forward over implanted sensors, but certainly not ideal. And this research is likely to lead to improvements and in the end the technology for reading glucose through the skin may be discovered. You have to start somewhere and you can not blame Google that the first version is not yet ideal.

  7. Google + is a failure? Oh, you mean the fastest growing social network in history? Google glass isn’t even a real product yet and you’re hating on it even after the initial positive reaction from the Glass Explorer program.

    1. “growing social network in history”

      You mean the fastest growing Single Sign On system in history? No one uses google+ for “social” outside of a core group of geeks.

    2. I do have a google+ account (and not a Facebook account) but I was forced a LOT by google to have one (because I want playlist in youtube).

      I does not use it at all (zero content, no friend list)

  8. Great write up and a good overview of the issue at hand – it seems the wearable trend is moving forward with the best of intentions of solving real problems. They just seem to be solving the right problems for the wrong people.

    It’s not inclusive design if the audience that would benefit the most from a product can’t use said product…

  9. As a type 1 diabetic who wears contacts everyday, I love hearing someone is “attempting” this. It requires a lot of dollars to do this that not many companies are willing to tackle. I applaud the effort and if it fails for the reasons you state, I still commend them for trying.

  10. Google can’t fix the world’s biggest problems for all people, so they shouldn’t try to fix smaller problems for some people?

    They are a *web search* company, whose myriad smaller ventures all have one thing in common with each other and with their main goals as a search provider: they collect data. On large scales – much of which Google then makes available to anyone, for free – and on small scales, where it might only be of interest to the few. Or the one.

    That they investigate devices like this *AT ALL* is just bonus work, things they do because they *may* help someone somewhere. Criticizing a company that creates and gives away cutting-edge research that may someday be used by others to solve the big problems is absurd. Your *web search engine* company is trying to help diabetics, and some sort of tunnel-vision has convinced you that this is a bad thing. These contacts might – MIGHT – be helpful for diabetics, but normal contacts are what is needed here – to correct some severe short-sightedness.

  11. Nice article, for sure you haven’t read in your live about those histories like Columbus in 1492, or the First Man in the Moon, or the the etc., inventions and crazy things like smart contacts lenses for only 10% of diabetes is a wonderful thing. More than that, is a wonderful thing for someone like me, 50+ years with Diabetes type I and two sons with Diabetes type I too, resources are not easy to generate but if you work hard and complaint less you will be able to achieve your dreams, thanks to Google myself and another million of diabetics are now dealing with new dreams more close to earth and for sure to your hands.

    1. Guillermo

      You have no idea on how hard I work, what dreams I have and how I deal with it. Those have nothing to do with this article, so don’t assume anything. That said, as a fellow diabetic, I feel why you need optimism and why not, we all need hope. Good luck with your family and dealing with the disease that afflicts your sons. My best wishes are with you and them.

  12. Interesting. So you think it’s wrong to charge people who have money for things that poor people can’t afford. Instead you think successful companies should give away all their work and efforts for free. I’m not sure why you think it’s so wrong to make a profit, or why you think it’s wrong to let the wealthy fund research by buying products the poor can’t afford so that eventually that research trickles down to the poor themselves.

    Your entire economic vision seems flawed.

  13. maybe because a patch on the skin would not be able to measure blood sugar? Maybe because they were already working on miniaturization of electronics and decided to channel some energy from that work toward this problem. Would you prefer they did not?

    1. Ben

      There are many folks doing research in nano-scale needles that actually penetrate the skin layer and in reality any breakthrough there (probably helped along by Google) could be married it to the miniaturized electronics.

      PS: Did you see anywhere I say they don’t do research. I say, look at the obvious real world problems and tailor research efforts accordingly.

  14. I appreciate your opinion … I appreciate Google’s efforts … there’s a place for both. I’m a type II diabetic lucky enough to control the disease 100% with diet. Obviously you need to take a walk and get into a better mood. Be thankful someone is thinking outside the box on ideas for diabetics.

    1. I am in a good mood, I do my thing and work hard on not letting the disease get to me — thanks for asking. I don’t denigrate their efforts, just their emphasis and approach.

  15. The idea behind this seems to be that they can detect glucose levels from tears and they figured out a practical way to do it.
    Not very familiar with the subject so no idea if detecting glucose levels from perspiration is accurate enough at this time but ,if it was, we would have products.
    You assume that contact lenses must be costly but there is no reason for that to be true and you also need to remember that Google has no obligation to give us shit for free, open source anything.If anything it’s their duty to make money , Google is a public company.
    I will point out that your beloved Apple has ridiculously high prices , higher margins than Google , has almost 3 times the annual revenue and they invest a lot less than Google in R&D so maybe at some point you make an effort to be objective.

    1. Realjjj

      This is not about Apple and Google. It is about actually taking an approach that solves a problem for real people in a real fashion.

      By the way, how do you think they will make money off the contact lenses? Or is this just another effort to introduce contact lenses that can display more data for more google related services. If that is the end goal, go for it. Just coat in the diabetes-related issues.

      By the way, there isn’t much data that belies out their approach either.

      And lastly, if you want to make this Apple-vs-Google rivalry as part of the discourse, I would urge you to find another blog and another writer. I don’t see the world that way and don’t have time to engage in discourse like that.


    2. Google like HP, and Microsoft spend more than Apple and get less return out of it, the numbers aren’t even close, just another Google moonshot (poor quarter coming up possibly?).

  16. Seriously? I read the article and thought, “FINALLY, somebody is thinking outside the box!” So if I get you, you want Google to develop the technology, but have you tape it to your skin, not put it in a contact? Then give it to other companies to sell? What a crock.

    This is an amazing idea. How about a contact lens that constantly senses blood glucose levels, and then directly controls your insulin pump? Who knows how far this innovative thinking will go?

    You go buy your Apple stock. I’ll be first in line at this IPO.

  17. This is an elegant integration of technology — to put sensors in corrective lenses, which are already in constant contact with secreted fluids. I’d take contacts over a skin patch any day. If you think a patch is so obviously a better way and is feasible, get a team of engineers together and make it happen.

  18. From my chair, any interaction Google can have with the FDA is welcomed. So much innovation is stopped or slowed by the long and painful FDA process. If Google can loosen the log jam and show the FDA that companies/startups in Silicon Valley are willing to invest and innovate given reasonable application approvals.

    -Type 1 diabetic of 25+ years

  19. This approach falls into line with google’s core competencies (miniaturization, wearable tech), perhaps makes use of existing vendor relationships (via Glass), and generating good press, and developing technologies in new areas that could be used in countless applications. Keep in mind, Google is a tech company, not a diabetic. My guess is this project started with “how can we justify an attempt at some sort of smart contact lense?” rather than “How can we improve diabetic testing equipment?”

    Some other groups are working on sweat sensors (http://www.medgadget.com/2011/08/new-sweat-sensors-for-detecting-low-blood-glucose-levels-and-other-conditions.html), but to me it reads like it can only tell you if things are getting really serious. What other fluids can be used for blood-glucose level readings? Saliva? Could someone make some sort of wireless tooth filling? The other option is even less comfortable…

    1. Clark

      Thank you for that comment. I agree with your comment — this is just a justification for smart contact lenses as the next screen on our bodies. Diabetes has nothing to do with it.

  20. Am I missing something between the article and the bar graph? You show a graph that shows, lower income populations tend to be less obese than higher income populations. The next paragraph is about how the lower income populations have higher risk for diabetes because of a lack of diet options, bla bla bla. Why even include the bar graph if you are going to ignore the data on it and regurgitate what you have heard from the talking heads on MSNBC dozens of times?

  21. Wow.

    You admit your diabetes is your fault, as it is in the case of many type II patients. Yes, genes play a huge role, but as you say, your choices are what made this happen. There is also the hope of many type II patients that they could adjust diet and exercise to the point where there don’t need drugs, or even have it controlled with pills. Many choose not to make these lifestlye changes, but the opportunity is still there.

    I, on the other hand, am a type I diabetic, a demographic you don’t seem to acknowledge. I didn’t live an unhealthy lifestyle, and it’s not in my family history, I just got it and am now, for the rest of my life, insulin dependant. Type IIs can typically produce some insulin naturally, depending on their condition, and just need help keeping things in balance. Type Is can’t. This means that our blood sugar in is 100% regulated by the complex mixture of, among many things, what we’ve eaten, how much exercise we’ve had, and how much stress we’ve been under. Blood sugar drops of 50 points in an hour aren’t uncommon for some of us, and waking up with EMTs over us isn’t uncommon either.

    The possibility of having optional, real-time monitoring available would be wonderful. I am aware that there are some options currently available, but these tend to be invasive, requiring an always-there needle in your skin. If I’m going to exercise, or even move furniture,having the option to pop in contacts that would alert me if my blood sugar dropped would be much better.

    Why should Google abandon an idea that has a foothold, and will help many, including yourself, be abandoned in favor of chasing after an ideal solution to fix the world? Google pushes their employees to spend time on the clock chasing independant projects. This likely came from that. Who says they aren’t working on one to fix the problems you say should take priority over things they have a solution for? Why shouldn’t they pusure something that they’ve found a real fix for?

  22. the focus on contact lenses is for google to be able to secretly collect information about who you are and what you are looking at.

  23. “And to do that, the company needs to learn to be human and develop compassion for human condition.”

    You nailed it. Google Inc. is the single most soulless tech company on earth. Their MO is advertising and data collection, the two areas in which they excel. Everything else is a means to that end.

    You forgot to mention that crazy plan to deliver internet to 3rd world countries with hot air balloons to which Bill Gates noted: “If you’re dying has malaria, when you see the balloon, I’m not sure how it can help you. If children get diarrhea, there is no website that can cure it,”

  24. Couple things. Google has not formally announced anything so any stories or stats are just guesses at this point. The price point for these is not known, they may be $10/pair…but you don’t know. The point of these isn’t to “cure” diabetes, it’s proof of concept that can lead to cheaper better tech that can monitor blood glucose, radiation, chemo levels, potential drug interactions, precursors to stroke or heart attack, etc, etc. This a company that’s wants to make money while also improving your life. All I hear in your op eds piece is complaints about what it’s not, a pessimists viewpoint. Life is much more enjoyable when approached from, at the least, a pragmatist’s view, if not an optimist. My point being, this is great news for diabetics and all the future healthcare tech that might come from this to save lives. I say, “Hooray for Google!”

    1. pragmatism ? it’s vaporware again and again

      and it was the same idea and person at Microsoft ! http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/researchconnections/science/stories/functional-lens.aspx

      it was again vaporware.

      I would like, for once in my lifetime, to see a Google Announcement : “here is our new product, it’s the result of years of great work. It is functional, it is real, you can buy it now and hospital can contact us for help with money. Available today”.

      I’m sick of vaporware and delusional in false hope by the computing industry.

      It may be great ONE DAY, everyone agrees with that, but again, it’s just an announcement about a lab thing… Like Sony and Microsoft years ago, Google speaks too soon or for nothing.

      We need real health tools not vaporware.

  25. Okay, so…

    1. Why do you think these contacts are prescription? These are simply a method, a non-invasive and low effort one at that, to collect and monitor a bodily fluid for glucose levels. These may well be porous and permeable enough to extend the wear time out to match the battery time in circuit.

    2. You mention that the cost of contact lenses are a luxury for the developing world. Compare a cheap contact lens (you only need one for monitoring) that lasts a few days vs several days of test strips, lancets, swabs, and bandages. Then consider the utility of having automatic or real-time monitoring and informing vs depending on the patient remembering to keep to a schedule.

    Of course, you’re also wrong about G+ and Glass so…

    1. Johnny Normallty

      Just try and see the living conditions in places not US and you will see contact lenses over multiple days is a nice theoretical idea. A good patch can last a lot longer.

      1. I would like to know what living conditions you are talking about that are more conducive to a patch than contacts.

        This also doesn’t change that lacrimal fluid is a far better indicator than anything that can be collected topically through a patch. You mention using nanoscale needles, but now you have to have something that can a) penetrate into a blood vessel, b) be wide enough to actually allow uptake of blood, c) be sturdy enough to not sheer off when the patient moves that part of their body d) myriad other requirements I’m probably missing.

        Also a patch is still going to be an attractor for dirt and humidity, and anything that causes the adhesive to break down (like say human sweat) is going to decrease life and increase costs for the user.

        Patches would make for good wearable vectors assuming you can throughly shave the area, are in climate controlled environments, and don’t move too much.

        Contacts already fit into a nice spot our body does a good job keeping clean and protected.

        1. Johnny — I see the problems with patches, but on (b), is blood being taken up? As I understand it, current CGMs measure BG in subcutaneous fluids by measuring the current that results from glucose oxidase activity. This takes an electrode, not a vessel. Patches might work better if they tried this approach. If a patch uses a needle to take up blood, this is also problematic in terms of keeping the needle clear. This is easy to do when you can flush the tube (as with a pump or IV), but would be tough with the patch scenario.

        2. Yes, a patch will attract dirt, but so does a contact, with the added problem that it’s in your eye, a place where a simple infection is not so simple.

  26. Well, plus really, would having continuous blood glucose readings really help a diabetic? Certainly 2 hours after food, etc, but EVERY MINUTE?

  27. Om, this story would have been a lot more credible if you left this out:

    “Google+, their social network, is a fail because it fundamentally isn’t social or about people — it is an effort to solve Google’s need for social data for better advertising using machines. Similarly, Google Glasses are a cringe-worthy assault to the social interactions of normals, but because a certain subset of Googlers — including co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page — have a cyborg fetish, it is okay to make that design.”

    It’s really hard to take an article like this seriously when the presence of bias is so clearly evident. None of that furthered your argument at all. Instead, you destroyed whatever sense of objectivity might have been present here. This whole article is nothing more than a rant against Google, veiled under a lame attempt to use your self inflicted disease as a moral podium.

    This is very poor journalism at its finest folks.

    1. Jd88

      You can say whatever you want, it is yet another sign of a company that is tone deaf, The two other examples only reinforces the problem they have had and will continue to have. Feel free to skip reading what I have to say — but not going to be an apologist for one of the biggest companies of our time for being unable to think with compassion.

      1. The fact that they are considering any sort of project to help diabetes is more than can be said for any other major company. I don’t see you calling anyone else out. How much of your own earnings from this website do you donate do diabetes research?

        I smell hypocrisy.

        Again, had you not attempted to bash Google products in the article, it would be a lot easier to believe you are concerned about “compassion” and not simply using this as an opportunity to bash the competition of your favorite technology companies.

  28. Mr. Malik,

    I am a diabetic like you. And I find it exciting and commendable that Google, is spending their own money, to come up with a nice and painless solution to monitor glucose level in our body.

    As you have pointed out, contact lenses may not be for everybody. That however, does not justify that innovation not be made in the field. Had Bausch and Lomb (or some other Medical company) come up with the same idea, would you have opposed it the same way?

    Lets discuss cost, how many of these “poor South Asians” have you seen using a AccuCheck Glucose Meter? In India, my home country, AccuCheck Glucose Meter retails for about INR 1,500. 100 strips + lancets costs another INR 2,000. This is the discounted price, you can look it up on their website (http://www.accu-chek.in).

    Last year, I purchased a set of 6 disposable soft contact lenses for INR 600. Which of the two can they afford?

    With mass production, even with extra cost of chips and circuitry, I believe it will become cheaper.

    Back in 1997, when I saw a cell phone for the first time, the store owner told that the local calls cost, per minute, would be between INR 8 and 12.

    The cell phone was huge and the weight would be more than 2 pounds (I guess from the way he was lifting it, I was a student with no money, not his customer, and the electronics store owner never really allowed anybody to touch it).

    I thought, this would never take off; who the hell can afford this exciting technology, and boy was I wrong. Do you know how high the cell phone usage is among “poor South Asians” now? The point I am trying to make is – we don’t know for sure how this will work out in future.

    I am not pro or anti Google (or any company for that matter, well, except Apple) and I think the Google+ or Google Glass discussion were out of place for this piece, and I think your take is unfair.


  29. > Instead of trying to develop a contact lens that will still be quite expensive
    > for many of the world’s poor, diabetic patients, why not focus all monetary
    > and intellectual energies towards developing a more simpler solution that
    > can be built at scale, very cheaply?

    Because this is not really a “diabetes contact lens” — it’s a data gathering device, akin to a Street View car or Google Glass. Future versions of the contact lens would gather much, much more data about your body than just blood sugar levels, and Google would have access to that data. An airline might require that pilots wear them when flying to ensure they are not intoxicated.

    If it were really about diabetes, it wouldn’t have Wi-Fi and so on. It would just be a little strip across the bottom of your vision that turned redder as your sugar levels rose.

    In fact, if it were really about diabetes, it would be a cure for diabetes, not another way to live with it.

  30. Just because Google has the resources to do something, does not mean it should. Their actions need to be aligned with shareholders expectactions, their existing business as well as what their core staff are interested in / are passionate about doing. It wouldn’t really make sense for them to be spending massive resources building a diabetes related part of their business.

    Instead i think this is more like a technical demo – a longshot, something to prove what can be done with contact lenses and miniaturized computing. Diabetes data collection just happens to be probably the only realistic/useful application possible at the moment. Also, this project was probably worth it for google just to hire/retain the person behind it. I mean contact lens computers?

    In any case, all big problems should be approached by many people from many approaches. Mainstream, longshots and experiments.

  31. You had me interested until you kept flogging about the stupid weight charts (cause you KNOW only FATTIES get diabetes, right? WRONG, it’s about genetics, and 1 in 3 people with Type 2 diabetes is normal weight)
    Also, why NOT be happy that ANY breakthrough is viable? Instead of whining about ‘it’s generally considered smart not to wear contact lenses if you have diabetes’, why not merely talk about the world wide options for third world countries where people sometimes don’t even HAVE the option for life saving INSULIN? THAT is far more important. *rolls eyes*

    PS: I have type one diabetes (3% of all people with diabetes). I am NOT a ‘diabetic’ (as in I do not define myself as a disease) which is vastly different than the folks with Type 2 (the other 97% of the population who have diabetes).

  32. Google’s revenue engine is, has been, and will be “monetizing eyeballs.” This was the Web 1.0 promise which only they delivered on in a sustainable way. Their business strategy is to turn as many people as possible into advertising units to sell in reverse auction to their advertisers.

    Most of their movements in the last 10+ years can be understood through this frame.

    Therefore, the lack of motivation to cover serious problems like access to water, vaccines, and diseases like diabetes become obvious: the market isn’t big enough. Once they have 7B ad units (each living human) they may value diversifying their model. But right now, 1 in 19 humans suffering from diabetes is not as motivating as capturing every human with a vision impairment of any kind… because an order of magnitude more people means an order of magnitude better monetization of those eyeballs.

  33. the last two sentences of the abstract you linked read…

    “Contrary to previous reports, the response of the diabetic eye to contact lenses–as observed clinically–does not differ appreciably from that of the non-diabetic eye. These results suggest that current generation daily wear soft contact lenses can be a viable mode of vision correction for diabetic patients.”

    In what way does that study support your position regarding diabetics and contacts?

  34. Can an astigmatic person wear contact lenses? Yes …
    Can a diabetic person wear contact lenses? Yes …

    See http://www.uihealthcare.org/2column.aspx?id=225651

    The cost of the instrumented lenses is not discussed in the Google news release; this is an R&D project, not a commercial project. Perhaps this device is not the best answer for every person with diabetes … but it would certainly be appropriate for many.

    Similarly the patch which is proposed above has costs, and would perhaps work for many. It is another R&D project. There have been many research projects for non-invasive blood glucose testing … they are all interesting concepts, but all of them depend upon technology, and all would have a cost.

    It seems that your concern here is that you would have made a different choice … but there is no clear evidence that your favorite choice would be more effective or cost less.

  35. Dear Om, you are just jealous of the glory Google got with this news.

    The only things more wonderful than the research are

    0) Insulin pills.

    1) Genetic manipulation so type I so cured.

    2) Genetic manipulation so type II does not occur.

    And let me remind you Om that people that people who can not afford these contact lenses can not afford insulin either.

    I am a borderline type || and my father had diabetes from very young age (it ran in the family)
    so that I know diabetes first hand,

    We, South Asians in particular, can not give credit where credit is due because of our ambitious nature. Grow up Om. You are a resounding success in my eye because of your GigaOm empire.

  36. The announcement of Google’s new endeavor is fairly new. I can not believe that, with the limited information regarding the technology (price, how it will even work, would insurance cover any portion, etc), one could be such a pessimist about this new technology. You make a lot of assumptions in this article – no one knows if this technology will even go anywhere, no one can even speculate the price, or even the potential positive impact this could make.

    Ugh, this article could have much better presented the excitement of this/and other new technology for diabetics, but instead it sounded like a big whine-sesh about something we know very little about. It was far from a “reality-check.” So dramatic. The buzz about this new technology could spark interest for other companies to research alternate methods for glucose monitoring (which many are doing). If this, or similar technologies were successful, it would be in a companies best interest to make it more affordable given the overwhelming number of people affected by diabetes. Also, if proven successful – could this be technology covered by insurance in the future? Insurance companies are highly motivated to help diabetics control their diabetes as PVD/amputations, kidney disease/dialysis, disability, and the plethora of other diabetes complications cost them endless money in the end. There is so much potential in this technology, and so much yet to be determined….

  37. Diabetes runs in my family, so I know exactly what you are talking about. If the lenses are using the tears, then why can’t skin moisture or saliva be used instead? More readings lead to better control because you know if you can eat and you know the direction that you are trending.
    PS : Don’t be surprised to find out some day how many non-invasive testing solutions have been bought and shelved by the test strip companies.

  38. I am with you OM.

    Most google products show technology first, people (or use case) second – except for Search. Apple is the reverse. While its interesting to innovate in the open, at some point users will not be patient with this approach.

    Having said that, I am hoping with Tony Fiddell buyout, things will change. What a loss for AAPL. Tim Cook as CEO and Tony as Chief Product Officer would have been the killer combination to counter Larry Page + Googlers… Cannot believe Tim did does not see that. But I digress…

  39. Om, as a mobile technology pioneer in the real estate space I have enjoyed and appreciated your insights very much over the years. This article though hit home hard. I have been type 2 diabetic for 15 years and lost my mother way too early due to complications from diabetes. The hours spent bathing her gangerous legs in the later stages of her life still give me nightmares. I turn 55 this month and have determined that I want to spend the rest of my productive work life addressing the root causes of this disease. While I agree with your comments about better glucose monitoring devices, ultimately, the disease will persist as long as we continue to consume ridiculous amounts of refined cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup in our diets. We need a healthy alternative sweetener to replace these products. The artificial sweeteners that the food industry has developed, from dubious source stocks, are arguably worse. But even if a healthy alternative could be created, bringing the industrial food complex on side will be an enormous challenge given that refined cane sugar costs are so low ($0.30-$0.40/lb.) with HFCS about 30% less. My research to date leads me to believe that one promising avenue that could be pursued is using dehydrated honey and blueberries as primary ingredients. The target would be to bring the GI of the product down around 50 or less. I have strong partners on the production side to work on the development of such a product but would be interested in your thoughts as to a promotional strategy and potential VC partners supportive of a health and wellness agenda (assuming our product development efforts are successful). Having financed early stage food products in the past that achieved national and international distribution I am under no illusions as to the immensity of the challenge. That being said, the problems created by existing sweeteners have reached the stage of a national health emergency. Surely, if Silicon Valley can help entrepreneurs like Elon effectively challenge the pollution spewing auto industry, can’t we take a run at the industrial food complex that is quietly poisoning us all?

    Ken Galpin

    1. Hi Ken,

      Interesting approach. May I ask why you single out cane sugar and HFCS? What about other carbohydrates like white bread, rice, pasta or potato chips, just to name a few items?


      1. B Nog:
        Good point. I read his comment as picking out foods with a high glycemic index. Processes foods, in general, tend to have a higher index due to breaking down of grains (e.g., in white bread) or addition of fructose or other simple sugars. Depending on the type, rice, pasta, etc. could be included in this.

  40. I think Google is being brief on details as they’re trying to get glucose monitoring working with their Google glass.

    All it would take is a polarised light source shone into the eye from the glass frame and then captured on reflection. By calculating rotation you could get a proxy from glucose content on fluid in eye and from there calculate an approximation of blood glucose.

    fda (and basic patient safety) is going to require more accurate readings from seamlessly connected glucometers like that developed/marketed by Telcare.com so perhaps Google is keeping quiet about that so that it can buy such a company as it’s probably beans and toast this month at Google HQ after they paid $3.2 Billion for Nest.com

  41. I think Google is being brief on details as they’re trying to get glucose monitoring working with Google Glass.

    All it would take is to shine a polarised light source into the eye from the glass frame and then capture the reflection and with a calculation of the rotation you could get a proxy of glucose content of fluid in the eye and from there calculate an approximation of blood glucose.

    Fda (and basic patient safety) is going to require more accurate readings from seamlessly connected glucometers like that developed/marketed by Telcare.com so perhaps Google is keeping quiet about that so that it can buy such a company as it’s probably only ‘beans and toast’ on the menu this month at Google HQ after they paid $3.2 Billion for Nest.com

  42. It is cool not just in and of itself, but hopefully it will nudge current makers of CGMS to move forward also. I find it ridiculus that in this day and age I cannot get my 9yr old type 1 son’s real-time CGM data on my phone. Unfortunately current companies are enwrapped in proprietary standards and charge huge amounts of money for a simple parent monitor to get CGM data across an apartment (and forget the internet).

    Go Google.

    1. This is disappointing. I use a Dexcom G4 CGM and it’s much much better than what I tried out 10 or 12 years ago. But yes they should figure out some way to get the data to parents, or more generally to allow multiple devices to access the RF output. Do you think one limitation is the transmitting power of the sensor unit? The previous generation Dexcom sensor could broadcast to the handheld receiver at 5 ft or so (reliably). The new one is about 20ft. The new one sensor is much larger, I assume because it has a bigger battery to power the RF range. I know Minimed has a bedside display for CGM, but again I think that only works because it’s close to the sensor. Are you looking for something you could monitor, say, while your son’s out playing? (Perhaps they could allow a waistband/handheld receiver to pick up the sensor feed and then relay it via cellular technology? That way you could have the power-eating broadcasting function provided by a rechargeable device.)

  43. They invent a new technology that measures your blood glucose without actually taking any blood and your reaction is to bitch about it only being beneficial for some diabetics?


    Do you go to restaurants, have a delicious meal and then complain that the cutlery was in the wrong place?

  44. Here to offer an anecdote: one of my lecturers at Uni worked with the team that invented the first electrochemical glucose meters.

    The team consisted of chemists, biologists, electrical engineers. The devices worked by pricking a small amount of blood on to a test strip (coated with glucose oxidase to oxidise the glucose), and then measuring the glucose with the device (which used ferrocene to bind to the product of that reaction, and directly produce an electric current from it). They were incredibly proud of it – it was an elegant solution that treated biological molecules as variable resistors in a circuit, which meant you got a perfectly linear current vs. amount of glucose relationship.

    Anyway, they proceeded to miniaturise the device – thinking that the smaller and more portable the device, the more convenient it would be for diabetics. The reading gadget ended up being no thicker than a pencil.

    The device was a flop.

    Unfortunately, that team didn’t actually have any diabetics on it. If they had had, they’d have known that people with diabetes can develop peripheral neuropathy, which compromises their fine motor skills. Making the device so small meant that it was extremely impractical for many diabetics. The devices only really took off after they _increased_ the size of the reading gadget.

    That story taught me an important lesson: you design products for people. It’s tempting for an engineer to strive to miniaturise everything; to refactor and simplify it to its essentials and strip everything else out. However, we live in a world of imperfect human animals, and they impose practical constraints that separate what you *could* build from what you *should* build.

  45. Also a comment to Om personally: have you tried a calorie restricted diet? Some studies have had it *cure* some types of Type-II diabetes. If you haven’t, I would recommend giving it a go; it’s as risk-free a procedure as it gets and the gains could be enormous.

    See this article:


    “Eleven people with diabetes took part in the study, which was funded by Diabetes UK. They had to slash their food intake to just 600 calories a day for two months. But three months later seven of the 11 were free of diabetes.”

    600 calories is pretty small; it works out to like one relatively small meal a day. It takes some getting used to, but once you do it’s no trouble at all. I started a similar thing, having only 600 calories a day on weekends, and I’ve got to say it’s really improved my general well-being. I’m not at all obese and don’t have diabetes, so it’s good advice for anybody.

  46. When I saw the headline my first question was “who still buys contact lenses?”. Most people today will get their eyesight corrected by a number of different procedures (I had mine corrected in 1999).

    When I think of these stunts from Google I can’t help myself draw parallels with Microsoft. Both have cash cows (although Microsofts is more threatened today than googles is). Both have very bright scientists and engineers working for them. Both spend a ton of money on R&D. But neither can kick out products that anyone wants to buy or solves a problem on a wide scale outside their core competencies. Or make money doing it.

    I really think this is behind the purchase of Nest. Google doesn’t have the DNA to kick out meaningful products. Nest does. And has proven it.

  47. The issue (that I can see) for another type of wearable monitor is the access of the monitor to body fluids in a non-invasive manner. I don’t think sweat will fit the bill as there seems to be more inconsinstancies in how to measure it (evaporation, humidity, etc).

    As a side note, Microsoft is also funding research on this solution to glucose monitoring, but with the sensor communicating with an internal pump.

  48. Thank you for pointing to this interesting study.

    It is a good study but the authors make a logic mistake using the amalgamation argument when they state based on vague data that fructose is metabolized identically as glucose: the only fact they provide to support this theory is a statement that has nothing to do with fructose since sucrose and HFCS have about the same content in fructose: “The American Medical Association has weighed in on the debate and concluded that it does not believe there to be any difference between HFCS and sucrose when it comes to causing or aggravating conditions such as obesity or diabetes type II.” So they use a true statement about something else, to imply that their first statement is also true, which is a deception (they probabky believe it this deceiving themsleves).

    Until the data in the book “The Sugar Fix”, and the in presentations by Robert Lustig are proven wrong, fructose is still the number 1 suspect in the epidemy, together with excess calories consumption.

  49. Just because google’s contact lenses don’t cut it for you is no reason to go on a tirade about Google’s failings.

    You could argue that the contact lenses don’t solve a problem you have — I personally don’t care for them too, since I don’t use nor feel comfortable with contact lenses, but it is not hard to imagine someone who will find them useful. Secondly, this is an addition to the array of options that a diabetic has at their disposal: pick your poison. The cost is merely one factor you take into consideration when picking said poison. Most new technologies start out relatively expensive.

    Finally, I’ll address the irrelevant swipe at Google+ which you made. If you use an android device like I do, Google+ is very useful. I find the fact that my good friend +1’d an app for android a very strong incentive for me to try it out because I trust that friend’s judgement. I don’t really care if the rest of Google+ is just an attempt to gather social data, it’s clearly being put to good use. I don’t really care if it is not as popular as Facebook for spamming each other with party pictures, I already have facebook for that.

  50. I’m ok with the lens, it means the discussion is there and someone will probably out google, google. I wish we could get the artificial pancreas through FDA, that would definitely help.

    As far as being economical, diabetes isn’t cheap. How expensive are each test strip? I use an insulin pump, how expensive are the components I have to change out twice a week? Still cheaper than the complications from diabetes.

  51. Yes, all products should be perfect on the first try. And there is no room for expermental products. And I want a bunny that is a perfect companion, brushes my hair, and knows my insuline needs without touching me.


    Also diabetic.

  52. If I was Google, I would invite Om to become a board member. He clearly understands the problems the company currently faces.

  53. OM, I appreciate you writing about this from a personal perspective and there are a couple of issues that your post raises that I think point to a larger question in terms of healthcare. Specifically, your inference that contacts are bad for someone with diabetes and therefore this particular initiate is bad is to me is problematic.

    I’m writing from the perspective of someone who has Type 1 (for those of you not familiar with the confusing nomenclature – Type 1 is insulin dependent and is caused by genetics. Without daily insulin injections those with Type 1 will become quite ill and even die) and who has 3 extended family members also with Type 1. None of our primary care nor endocrinologists (including pediatric endocrinologists) have ever raised the concern you shared about corrective lens use.

    Does this mean your statements are wrong? Absolutely not! It does point out the extreme variance in standard of care and advice a patient will receive. So I’m concerned about a conclusion drawn from one’s own experience. And this case demonstrates that clearly: Om has one set of advice and my cohort of 4 has a different set and we can both draw completely different conclusions based on that.

    As for the Google initiative itself, I have the following opinions. First, sucessful noninvasive glucose measuring is a critical step towards the ultimate goal of a self-regulating insulin infusion system. Essentially an “artificial pancreas”. So it is important that different entities are working on different monitoring approaches. Second, we know from the history of technological development that often times innovations that seem to be a dead end actually provide the foundation for another innovation to become reality at some future point.

    Om is absolutely correct to point out that these high-tech, high-cost solutions do nothing for the majority of the world – simply because there is a massive barrier to adoption and the necessary support systems simply do not exist. The most promising solution in the long-term may be insulins that are encased in a microscopic structure that responds to chemical signals in the body itself and are released as needed.

    My opinion is that the Google initiative (while surprising) is welcome. Is it a solution in and of itself? I say no, but it is clearly making a contribution to the overall science.

  54. Seriously, why the attachment to the eye? I don’t pretend to know what diabetics need, but why not develop a patch with bluetooth that you can leave on for a week and gives you constant feedback, and alarms, from a device in your pocket? It wouldn’t have the COOL factor? With a patch, you’d have to change locations, and you’d have to make the adhesive material non-allergenic, but this is much less of a problem than something you stick on your eye. I don’t have diabetes, so I don’t have any insights there, but what exactly is the attraction to the cyborg that Google has?

    1. Jim:
      Current CGM technology with a 6mm electrode works just like this. I wear the site for 7-10 days and don’t notice it at all. It is invasive, but minimally, especially compared to earlier generations of the tech I’ve used. The handheld receiver (44x98x9mm) gives graphs, sounds alarms, etc. I agree that putting something in your eye better be pretty darn amazing compared to current techs for it to be worth it. But as many have said, it may be more about the cyborg experience for Google.

  55. A quick point: contacts can correct some astigmatism.

    I found your introduction compelling: that contacts are known to be bad for diabetics and pursuing that shows Google simply isn’t paying attention to basic parameters. (I don’t know anything diabetes, so I’ll trust that’s correct.)

    I don’t understand the longer point about costs. You argue contacts are too expensive, but argue in favor of other micro-electronic devices that connect wirelessly to phones. Is this really less expensive? You assert it, but it’s not obvious, and not really supported in your essay.


    As a contacts wearer, I see the appeal of Google’s project. If they could report on my health, that would be a free benefit; no additional effort on my part. That brings it back around to your starting point: fundamentally wrong choice to report on diabetes, since a diabetic won’t be wearing contacts.

  56. May I suggest that diabetics here do research on the benefits of coconut oil?

    The whole saturated-fat / coconut bad press was a very successful smear campaign by vegetable oil producers – because in fact coconut oil is high in medium-chain triglycerides, which are beneficial to the body.

    Coconut oil has such a wide range of benefits, including diabetes, that I think y’all should look further into it.



  57. Perhaps the problem here is really that institutions like universities are beholden to the drug companies etc for research grants and there is very little blue skies and pure research going on. If not Google then who? is a more pertinent question to ask. Diabetes research institutions, as with other disease related organisations, get a small percentage of the available world wide funds to spend on research; most of it is spent by drug companies etc. who expect a return on their investment (just like Google).

  58. While I think your article is well written and well documented i think it misses the point..the point being that once the possibilities are shown by a company other companies often take that idea and run in a different direction with it, making a fortune and helping millions with their own twist. I think Google is both right and wrong in this contact lens thing, I would wear them, I am a type II, and even go thru the hassle of putting them in and taking them out if I didn’t have to test as often! If the lenses were able to be in for say 16 hours per day then I could put them in when I wake up, and test, and then wear thru my dinner and pre bed time testings before taking them off for the night. ie no more finger pricks for me!! Thus they WOULD make my life better, which is the initial point and they would then inspire other companies/researchers to say ‘what if’ and this could lead to some skin patch that we wear that does the same thing except over 3 days or even a week, sending the info to our smartphones for logging.

  59. Open source is all very good but who going to fund the clinical trials they will need to prove their device works and get permission to sell them as a medical product in the West

    An there a big problem with your last suggestion of using a patch to monitor blood glucose levels through the skin, no one has developed a sensor capable of doing this accurately yet. But it would be a great Google X project and for all we know they have a team right now playing around with near infrared spectronomy, ultrasound, and many others types of sensors trying to improve upon the many failures in the past to make this technology work, accurately and consistently accurately. Google X projects are only announce when Google can no longer hide the project, so there could be many other other wearable projects at Google that we have yet to see or hear about.

    1. Clinical trials are for those who wish to live in a well-ordered state … I do not. Give me #FOSS instead. 99guspuppet

  60. > Instead of contact lenses, how about Google’s mighty X-machine focus its microscopic
    > chip approach that Otis and Parviz are taking on a patch that can be applied to the
    > skin — akin to a nicotine patch.

    Om, speaking of “reality check”, did you actually look to see if that had been tried and failed?

    Or to see whether somebody (Georgia Tech perhaps in conjunction with partners) holds a huge pool of patents (on remarkably unfinished-looking technology, full of forward looking statements) that make it well-nigh impossible for anyone else to build a glucose-monitoring skin patch?

    Hint: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/no-more-needles-georgetown-university-teams-with-gentag-and-saic-to-develop-new-glucose-sensor-technology-with-wireless-connection-to-cell-phones-57483547.html

    These guys are at least doing something positive, not kicking back trying to tell others how to do their jobs. Like aarondfrancis says, “It has to start somewhere “

  61. If tears have blood glucose level information , why can’t that tear be monitored at the eye duct or a similar place ?

    I did some searching and there is some possibility that glucose levels can be detected in all four serums…. blood, saliva, tears and urine.
    Certainly saliva and urine would be easier to obtain than tears and blood.

    The more free & open source sharing #FOSS there is… the faster the development will move… that includes getting the FDA and other regulators out of the way. Those who want to live in a regulated state can choose to do so and they can let the rest of us alone…. Best ……. 99guspuppet

  62. As a husband of a Type I person for 22+ years, I love what Google is trying to do. I have talked to many manufactures of glucose monitors, I even tried to create an online secure social network for tracking sugars of my loved one. I know what it is to deal with a person who has a low or is going into shock and you need to use the glucogon or even worst, get several fireman to insert glucose IV. Any technology that can help a person with diabetes (type I) is a good thing. Is this new Google thing going to be perfect, no is it the answer, no, but is pushing the market to innovate.
    Now, I do think that many of the medical glucose vendors do not want to see this succeed at all, since this is how they make the big bucks! Just imagine that you don’t need to use 10 strips a day any more or that your CGM does not need to be changed every few days, who will NOT benefit from this? Well, you can figure this one out. I love that Google is doing here and I hope this forces many of the big vendors to move their asses and offer more innovative solutions.

  63. Interesting take. But I see several problems with your proposed approach.

    The reason there isn’t a non-invasive blood sugar test on the market is that it’s extremely hard to do without some form of bodily fluid. Usually capillary blood, because that is the actual relevant medium and therefor can be used to take readings about what’s happening *now* instead of what happened hours or days ago (like with urine tests, which where the preferred way before the blood tests became available).

    Most research in the non-invasive field currently focuses on testing blood *through* a thin body part, mostly the earlobe since it has many capillary blood vessels, to measure light wave spectrum interference by shining different light frequencies from one side and measuring how much reaches the other side. Several companies have claimed success with this approach over the last decade, but so far none have actually reached the large scale clinical testing stage, never mind a working product for sale.

    As far as I recall, only a single company has ever claimed any success with the approach you are proposing, measuring through the skin from one side only. They claimed to use light wave reflection interference to do it. I don’t remember their name right now, but afaik, they are now defunct and their lead researcher is now working for Apple (or maybe they bought the company?)

    Both approaches, even if they managed to actually work, wouldn’t be a simple skin patch, because of the power requirements for the intense light required for the measurements and the processing power to compute the multitudes of interferences by the many elements of the skin. All prototypes so far have been handheld devices with large external battery packs and/or direct connections to a computer.

    Sure, they will shrink *over time*, but not without releasing several generations of ungainly and probably expensive devices first. And that leads me to my second problem: When has there ever been a new and complicated technology that focused on cheap mass production from the start? I mean, sure, new uses and refinement of existing tech can be made that way, but completely new tech? It’s always going to be for better off first, because that’s how you recoup the development costs. A cheap skin patch for every diabetic out there sound awesome, but since the tech currently simply doesn’t exist, it’s not gonna happen anytime soon and no company with an eye on profits would be even thinking seriously about it right now.

    The same can be said for Google’s contact lenses, btw. Sure, the first generation will probably be expensive and have problems like you mentioned. But the cost will come down over time and those problems may be mitigated. For example, since they are not primary meant as a seeing aid, they could be made smaller than regular lenses, be made to let liquid pass through, etc. Since they have a very small mass, the material costs are low, so they could become very, very cheap with mass production. How is that any different to what would happen with any other approach to the problem?

    My problem with them is a completely different one: The fact that they don’t use blood. I can see how using tear fluid is a much easier approach than the other non-invasive ideas, but since it’s a fluid that’s quite a bit removed from the thing we want to measure, blood, I don’t see how this can ever deliver accurate and most important timely results. How long does it take for the tear glans to use the material it already has at hand to produce the tears? How long does it take for it to travel along the tear ducts to reach the eye? How long to mix sufficiently with the fluid already there to be measured? What about the difference in tear fluid production between people in very humid and very dry environments?

    At best, measurements will always be a certain amount of time removed from what’s happening in the blood, making them less useful for anyone having to use insulin to manage their sugar levels.

  64. As a type-1 diabetic who has worn contact lenses without issue for the better part of 20 years, I think the fear about them is largely misplaced. Diabetics are cautioned to be careful with contact lenses precisely because many do not actively monitor their blood glucose levels, and as a consequence suffer side effects include dry eyes and increased ocular infections.

    Having a continuous glucose monitor is a game changer in terms of how easily blood sugar is regulated and how well the patient understands what the food they are eating will do to their blood sugar levels. I have been diabetic 26 years and was pretty well controlled with some testing but now I am on a Continuous Glucose Monitor and I am learning new things about common foods that weren’t obvious to me before.

    So…a continuous monitor has the capability to completely eliminate the diabetic side effects that make contact lenses riskier for diabetics.

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