Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) said Monday it will collaborate with Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS) on a new model of smart contact lenses that monitor blood sugar levels and could correct impaired vision.
This is the latest project to be unveiled by the Google X development team, which spent years working on Google Glass, among other wearable devices that join a surge of other products used to monitor health and fitness. Google announced its smart lense technology in January. Financial details of the partnership weren't disclosed.
Novartis CEO Joe Jimenez told the Wall Street Journal that wearable technology, like smart lenses, could make it easier for people to keeps tabs on their health. "This will be a very important growth area in the future," Jimenez said, adding that the wearable technology health market is expected to be a "large revenue stream" for the company.
An estimated 382 million people, or 1 out of every 19, around the world struggle with diabetes, in which the body is unable to process sugar because of inadequate or no production of insulin. Nearly 30 million Americans, or 9.3 percent of the population, live with the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The Google lens aims to make that process easier with a small microchip that it said will be able to read blood sugar levels through tears in the eye as often as once a second. Currently, most diabetics prick their fingers for droplets of blood to test their sugar levels.
Google's smart lenses are part of a growing trend of technology companies developing wearable technology and software products aimed at uses in the healthcare industry. Last month, Google unveiled its Google Fit platform to track health statistics, such as sleep and exercise. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) also unveiled a similar product called HealthKit.
Previous reports have suggested that Google lifted the smart lens idea from Microsoft (NADAQ: MSFT), which began researching a similar project in 2011 with Babak Parviz, who then moved to the Google X team, presumably bringing some iteration of the idea with him. Parviz announced over the weekend that he's now a member of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), so consumers should likely expect some overlap between recent Google ideas and future Amazon announcements.