Glucose earring concept imagines blood sugar tracking via the earlobe
Monitoring blood glucose levels for sufferers of type 1 diabetes typically involves frequent finger pricks and analysis, but there are technologies on the horizon that promise to make things less invasive and more convenient. An imaginative example of this is a student-designed earring that would track blood glucose levels via the earlobe, which the creator hopes can one day help children with diabetes more discretely manage their condition.
The Sense Glucose Earring is the handiwork of 22-year-old Tyra Kozlow, a recent product design graduate from the University of Huddersfield. She was inspired to design the piece of smart jewelry after leading a focus group of parents with diabetic children, who spoke of the challenges of safely managing the condition faced by young people.
“Even though type 1 diabetes is not the fault of the person affected by it and is not related to any behavior patterns or choices, young people diagnosed with the condition do experience a distressing level of stigma and can be twice as likely to have poor glycemic control which can lead to further health problems," says Kozlow.
The idea is to have the earring pierce the earlobe and pulse high-frequency radio waves through the surrounding tissue as a way of measuring blood sugar levels. In this way, the earring wouldn't require constant samples and can deliver real-time readings on blood sugar via a smartphone app. The device would run on rechargeable batteries.
This is similar in a way to the idea of using smartphone cameras to measure blood-sugar levels, which instead rely on light shone onto the tissue to pick up on blood volume changes. This technique has been demonstrated in pigs, where changes in signal transmission correlated with spikes in glucose, and is being investigated by different research groups, but is not yet proven in humans.
As one of the finalists of the 2020 Global Grad Show, Kozlow's concept is one of thousands of student projects that take aim at big problems through design and technology. This event aims to engender creativity without the constraints of commercial interests, and has previously conjured up everything from wheel hubs that double as laundries for long-haul truck drivers to biodegradable coffins that boost the fertility of the soil.
As such, Kozlow's creation is much closer to a design concept than a commercial product, though two projects from this year's Global Grad Show will receive funding to help bring their ideas to market. Whether it makes it there in its current form or undergoes a few reinventions first, Kozlow believes the potential for a glucose-monitoring earring is there.
“I hope Sense will help teenagers feel more in control of their diabetes and that they will feel more encouraged to manage their condition around their friends because it’s a piece of smart technology they will be using,” she says. “By making the monitoring process as easy as say, measuring your heart rate on a smartwatch, I hope this will lessen the stigma, so it becomes much more a part of everyday life.
You can hear from the designer in the video below.
Source: University of Huddersfield