June 28 (UPI) -- Researchers have developed a way for people with diabetes to detect blood sugar levels without drawing blood.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo combined radar and artificial intelligence technologies to detect changes in glucose levels several times a day, but without requiring finger pricks. The system is outlined in a study published this month in the International Journal of Mobile Human-Computer Interaction.
"We want to sense blood inside the body without actually having to sample any fluid," George Shaker, an engineering professor at Waterloo, said in a press release. "Our hope is this can be realized as a smartwatch to monitor glucose continuously."
Finger pricking is the most common, though painful, way to detect the glucose levels. For some, an artificial pancreas can be used to constantly monitor glucose levels and automatically administer insulin to the patient through a pump -- instead of insulin injections, as those who prick their finger have to do.
The researchers worked with Google and German hardware company Infineon, who jointly developed a small radar device called the Soli system.
In the system, the radar device sends high-frequency radio waves into liquids containing various levels of glucose and receive radio waves reflected back to it. Then, the information is converted into digital data for analysis by machine-learning AI algorithms. The AI can detect glucose changes based on more than 500 wave features or characteristics.
Among volunteers at the Research Institute for Aging in Waterloo, the results were 85 percent as accurate as blood analysis.
"The correlation was actually amazing," Shaker said. "We have shown it is possible to use radar to look into the blood to detect changes."
Data are now sent wirelessly to computers, but the researchers want self-contained technology similar to the smartwatches that monitor the heart rate. This means reducing the size of the radar device.
"I'm hoping we'll see a wearable device on the market within the next five years," Shaker said. "There are challenges, but the research has been going at a really good rate."