Google collaborates with Novartis to develop smart contact lens technology

Novartis has revealed today that it is to license Google’s ‘smart lens’ technology in an effort to evolve the technology into a medical/consumer product in as little as five years.

Novartis

Novartis

We have previously reported that Google, Apple and Samsung are amongst the tech firms who are looking for ways to incorporate blood sugar monitoring capabilities into their wearables and now it looks like Google is already ahead in the race.

The Swiss pharmaceutical company’s deal with Google will see its Alcon eye care division collaborate with Google’s X lab in the development of the glucose-tracking smart contact lenses, which were originally unveiled by Google back in January.

“Alcon and Google have a deep and common passion for innovation,” said Jeff George, Division Head of Alcon. “By combining Alcon’s leadership in eye care and expertise in contact lenses and intraocular lenses with Google’s innovative “smart lens” technology and groundbreaking speed in research, we aim to unlock a new frontier to jointly address the unmet medical needs of millions of eye care patients around the world.”

The smart lens technology created by the Google X team, known for its work on ‘moonshot’ projects including the Project Ara modular phone and Project Tango 3D mapping device. Currently its functionality monitors the user’s blood sugar levels in a non-invasive way. Designed to measure sugar levels in tear fluid, the lenses have build-in sensors, microchips and other miniaturised electronic components and it can connect wirelessly with a mobile device for data monitoring or exchange.

Google and Alcon also announced that besides targeting diabetic patients, the ‘smart lens’ technology could also potentially offer correction for people living with presbyopia, which is a condition which makes it hard to focus on nearby objects.

The drugmaker’s chief executive Joe Jimenez told Reuters in an interview that the venture “isn’t going to happen overnight because it’s a breakthrough technology. It’s not months, we’re probably talking about years. We would hope to be able to commercialise within about five years.”

Google smartlens closeup

Google smartlens closeup

He also added that the move towards wearable health technology could have the potential to lower the cost of managing chronic disease. With around one in every 19 people around the world suffering from diabetes, Jimenez also said that the technology has the prospect of becoming a “large revenue stream” for Novartis.

With Google’s continuous efforts in developing the next generation of wearables, which include Glass and Android Wear, we are sure there will be lots more coming from the company and we are definitely excited to see more. What else could be built into these smart lenses?

Kai-Li Yang

Kai-Li is a tech enthusiast with an in-depth knowledge of mobile technology, music technology and the entertainment industry. She hails from Taiwan and helps Tech Assimilate to erm... assimilate, all the latest tech news and trends from East Asia. Kai-Li Yang on Google+

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