Non-invasive, continuous blood glucose monitoring is something we know the likes of Apple is hoping it can crack and startup LifePlus may well have beaten the folks at Cupertino in bringing that tech to the wrist.
The Lifeleaf wearable promises to monitor blood glucose levels with its patent-pending multi-sensor technology, but it can also non-invasively monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate and oxygen saturation. These data points can be used by LifePlus' software to track diabetes, cardiac arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, sleep apnea and hypertension. This is all open-source software that LifePlus wants to license out to manufacturers.
Read this: How wearables are helping diabetics
The Lifeleaf is currently undergoing clinical trials in five cities around the world and the company says the wearable will be available later this year in a limited quantity. John Trobough, Executive Chairman of the Board, tells Wareable that LifePlus doesn't plan to be a hardware company.
"We're not looking to be the next Fitbit or one of these types of devices," Trobough said. Instead, the Lifeleaf wearable is more of a reference device that it can use to show what its software can do. Then, the company would license out its software to other hardware manufacturers, like a Garmin or Fossil, to allow them to also non-invasively monitor glucose and other metrics.
Trobough also tells us that LifePlus hopes Apple can find a way to noninvasively track glucose too, as it would light a fire under competitors to more quickly find a solution, which LifePlus could provide. In particular, Trobough says the Wear OS ecosystem is ripe with potential partners.
How LifePlus Lifeleaf works
So how does LifePlus do it? The company uses commercial sensors already available in many wearables. The difference, according to the company, is that it's found a way to use light from existing sensors to better isolate glucose in the blood. Then, it takes that isolated data and applies machine learning and AI to spit out tracking metrics. The secret is essentially finding a way to better utilize existing sensors rather than creating a new one, and LifePlus says it's been working on this understanding for years.
As for the FDA and other regulatory bodies, Trobough says it recognizes the importance of holding itself to high medical standards, which is why it's conducting five clinical trials. Once these trials are complete, it'll use the data to apply for FDA approval for software - not hardware. Additionally, the company is not promoting its device and software as a replacement for devices like Dexcom's blood glucose tracking - at least initially.
Earlier this year, Valencell, a company that provides biometric sensors to the likes of Samsung, told Wareable that noninvasive glucose monitoring was "impossible" because you'd have to "change the laws of physics." When asked, LifePlus says it's aware of what other companies think but that its understanding of light sensors and its different approach has proven otherwise. Whether that's actually the case remains to be seen. After all, we've seen various needle-free solutions pop up over the years, but none of them have been accurate enough to yet make it into a product.
The big question is whether Lifeleaf can track precisely enough to advise on insulin dosage - that's the golden ticket.