Google taps Novartis to drive smart contact lens forward

Courtesy of GoogleGoogle is teaming up with pharma titan Novartis to develop a smart contact lens for measuring blood sugar levels using tear fluid, the latter announced this week. The lens will feature a low-power microchip and a nearly discernible electronic circuit that would send measurement data to a mobile device.

The partnership news comes six months after reports confirmed that Google was developing a contact lens for measuring and monitoring glucose. At that time, Google said the lenses would not be available to consumers until at least 2019.

In late April, as FierceMobileHealthcare reported, a patent filing revealed the contact lens featuring a computerized camera along with a sensor and an integrated, thin silicon chip. Google currently has seven patents related to the contact lens research focus.

According to a Forbes report, the development and licensing deal between Novartis' eyewear division, Alcon, and Google's Google[x] research facility may just be the two vendors developing new devices aimed at managing diseases.

An ABI Research report predicts that 90 million wearable computing devices will ship this year, but analyst firm IDC's expectations are a bit lower. The firm predicts global shipments will be 19.2 million this year and 112 million by 2018. Consumer adoption is driving the growth as more users are becoming much more comfortable with wearable tech.

Consumer interest in purchasing dedicated wearable fitness devices in the next 12 months quadrupled to 13 percent in 2013, from just three percent in 2012, according to new research from the Consumer Electronics Association.

Forbes stated there is no timetable as of yet for manufacturing, though the report cites other news outlets indicating Novartis is hoping for a commercial product within five years. Such lead time is likely needed, given that wireless sensor network innovation is facing a few substantial hurdles, including patient privacy and data security, according to a study published in April in the International Journal of Computer Science and Mobile Computing.

"Healthcare sensor networks applications have a bright future and it is a must to take up these issues at the earliest," the report's authors said. "The issues should be carefully studied and understood or else they can pose serious problems."

For more information:
- here's the announcement
- read the Forbes report

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