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I talked with 5 diabetics and they want Google's smart contact lenses, STAT!

Florence Ion | Jan. 22, 2014
Shannon McGovern probably knows much more about diabetes than you do. Now in her mid-30s, she's had Type 1 diabetes for 18 years, and uses an insulin pump and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to help monitor her blood sugar levels throughout the day. "It's one of those things you have to get used to," she says of the devices. "I've gotten to the point in my life where I don't really care what other people think."

Shannon McGovern probably knows much more about diabetes than you do. Now in her mid-30s, she's had Type 1 diabetes for 18 years, and uses an insulin pump and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) to help monitor her blood sugar levels throughout the day. "It's one of those things you have to get used to," she says of the devices. "I've gotten to the point in my life where I don't really care what other people think."

McGovern is one of the approximately 26 million Americans — or 8 percent of the US population — who would benefit from Google's smart contact lens project, announced late last week. The contact lens features a tiny blood glucose monitoring sensor and a barely-there antenna that's thinner than a single strand of hair to monitor and report critical bio data for diabetes patients.

But are diabetes patients ready for Google's latest seemingly wild-eyed technology project? I asked McGovern and several other diabetes sufferers, and the message was clear: They would all try the contact lens, but don't envision an immediate future where they'd give up the traditional glucose-monitoring method of drawing blood with a quick finger prick.

Simplifying lives
The smart contact lens was conjured up by the Google[x] division, the same company arm that introduced the self-driving car and Google Glass. "[It] might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy," wrote Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, the project's co-founders. 

Many people with diabetes tend to carry a lot of hardware on them, and checking their blood sugar levels is often a demanding endeavor. "I took insulin injections for the first four years after my diagnosis and finally got an Animas insulin pump when I was 17," said Ian Moser, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, who has suffered from diabetes for six years. "Although the pump is a lot more convenient than injection, it still requires you to re-puncture yourself about every three days, and being on the pump also doesn't exclude you from having to prick your fingers sometimes more than six times a day to monitor glucose levels."

Rob Spivey, who lives in West Yorkshire in the UK, said he'd appreciate the convenience of a simple contact lens. "I have never worn contact lenses at all, but if wearing one of those meant I didn't have to carry extra stuff around with me everywhere I go like I do now, then it would definitely be something I would consider giving a try."

Overall, diabetics are reacting positively to Google's tiny technology, and everyone I interviewed expressed hoped that the lens would replace the hardware they already use. "I think that would be super handy," said Diana Rouge, who has been living with diabetes for 17 years. "I carry my glucose meter with me and it's almost like having an extra device." 

 

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