Non-invasive glucose monitoring on smartwatches seems to have been in the pipeline for a long time, with little to show for it. Rumors that it could appear on the Apple Watch go back years, but so far it hasn’t made an appearance. Now it sounds like Huawei has beaten Apple to the punch.
Over on Weibo one Huawei executive claims that the newly-launched Huawei Watch 4 has a built-in glucose monitoring feature. More to the point, it’s supposed to be a non-invasive glucose monitor that doesn’t require any additional hardware to operate. Though there’s a catch.
The Huawei Watch can’t read your blood glucose levels directly. Instead the company says it’ll measure 10 specific health metrics, in as little as 60 seconds, to detect signs that blood sugar is too high. So if it detects that you are at risk of hyperglycaemia, the Huawei Watch 4 will warn you about it.
Metrics measured by this feature include heart rate, pulse wave characteristics “and more”, though the company hasn’t revealed what else is involved. The Huawei Watch 4 also has the hardware to monitor blood pressure, blood oxygen and body temperature, which may play a part in the high glucose warning.
Huawei hasn’t gone out of its way to explain the feature particularly well. That means there are a bunch of unanswered questions, including how this glucose monitor detects a rise in blood sugar and how accurate that system actually is. Hyper and hypo glycemia are serious issues for diabetics, and can be life threatening, so they’re not the kind of thing you want to leave to chance.
So this isn’t going to replace your traditional method of tracking blood-sugar levels, but it could prove beneficial as an additional safeguard. Just don’t rely on it too much.
The Huawei Watch 4 isn’t likely to go on sale in the United States, much like every other Huawei product out there. So Americans aren’t going to be able to try this feature for themselves. Fortunately we know Apple is working on non-invasive blood sugar tracking, which would actually track blood sugar levels rather than the general signs of high blood sugar.
Whether this feature could launch on Apple Watch 9 is unclear. After all, rumors suggested that glucose monitoring could launch on the Apple Watch 8, and before that the Apple Watch 7 — only for this to never happen. Apple has made it clear that this sort of tech isn’t easy, especially in a small wrist-bound form factor, so we may have to wait a little bit longer.
In the meantime it’s nice to see some progress has been made offering some kind of non-invasive glucose monitoring to a smartwatch. Even if we don’t know much about it yet, and that it likely won’t be available in the U.S., well, ever.