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New biometric watches for measuring glucose, dehydration and pulse
Two new studies in the journal Biomedical Optics describe biometric watches that rely on changing patterns of scattered light. One study from researchers in Israel's Bar-Ilan University describes a device to measure glucose concentration and dehydration while the other from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands describes a watch to monitor pulse. The watches could be used in the future by those looking to monitor their performance and well-being during physical activity.

Both devices depend on the so-called ‘speckle’ effect, which are the grainy interference patterns that result on images when laser light is reflected from uneven surfaces or is scattered from an opaque material. For example, in the case of the pulse-measuring watch, the blood flowing is scattering the light which the study authors claim results in a pulse monitoring system that is less sensitive to motion than other currently available devices.

The glucose measuring watch consists of a laser which generates a light wavefront that can illuminate a patch of skin on the wrist near an artery and a camera to monitor changes in the back-scattered light from the skin. A magnet attached to the device creates an external magnetic field which results in glucose molecules altering the wavefront polarisation and hence changing the speckle patterns. The study authors claim that this is the first non-invasive device which can be used to monitor glucose levels and relative hydration.

The pulse measuring watch uses a newly developed method to non-invasively monitor pulse in a way that is not sensitive to the movement of the wearer. The research team used simulated heart beats in milk and performed their measurements on the finger of a volunteer. They were able to show that flow pulsations could be accurately measured via speckle pattern changes even if the light source creating the pattern was also moving. Lead author Dr Mahsa Nemati explained: "This paper shows for the first time that a speckle pattern generated from a flowing liquid can give us the pulsation properties of the flow in spite of motion-induced artifacts…Sophisticated optics is not necessary to implement this, so the costs for devices can be kept low. Another advantage is that the devices can be non-contact or far from the sample."

Both devices may have future applications both in the clinic and in sports. The research teams involved are working on potential
commercialisation of their devices.


"Improved noncontact optical sensor for detection of glucose concentration and indication of dehydration level," N. Ozana et al., Biomedical Optics Express, Vol. 5, Issue 6, pp. 1926-1940 (2014).

"Dynamic light scattering from pulsatile flow in the presence of induced motion artifacts," M. Nemati et al., Biomedical Optics Express, vol. 5, Issue 7, pp. 2145-2156 (2014).

Press release: The Optical Society, available from
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