Google has filed a patent for a smartwatch that can take a small sample of your blood without the use of needles, and it could help diabetics more easily monitor their blood glucose levels throughout the day.
Currently, diabetics need to perform a finger prick and use a blood glucose meter multiple times a day to make sure their insulin levels are under control. But based on the limited information we have so far, Google's new smartwatch-like device looks poised to replace that system with something less painful and more automatic.
Given that the invention is still in the patent phase, Google is remaining tight-lipped about exactly how the device works, what it might be used for, or even when or if it'll get made. But it has provided a little bit of insight into the process.
The patent application reveals that the device first sends an 'abrupt surge' of gas into a barrel containing a microparticle, which then punctures the skin to produce a small drop of blood.
This droplet is then sucked into a negative pressure barrel, where it can be used for further testing. "Such an application might be used to draw a small amount of blood, for example, for a glucose test," Google writes in the application.
From the diagrams released with the patent, it looks like the device is a little tube that's stored in the chunky watch-like device you can see above (hello, '80s design) and is then removed and used when the patient's blood needs to be taken.
Although diabetics aren't specifically mentioned in the patent, it doesn't take a tech expert to read between the lines and get an idea of the intended target market. And it's also not the first time that Google has actively targeted diabetics with its inventions.
Just last year, a research team at Google Life Sciences announced that it was developing 'smart' contact lenses that will be able to monitor blood glucose levels, and another group is working on disposable, bandage-sized glucose monitors.
It's a pretty sensible business move for the company, with one in three US adults projected to have diabetes by 2050 if current trends continue, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Of course, just because Google has patented an idea, doesn't mean anything is going to come of it anytime soon. The tech company told The Verge:
"We hold patents on a variety of ideas – some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents."
But we can't help but hope this device makes it to market, because a faster and more painless way to monitor blood levels would make a whole lot of peoples' lives easier.