Every January, two important conferences bring together the electronics and healthcare sectors, giving us a glimpse of what's truly on the cutting edge in diabetes.

The JP Morgan Healthcare conference for investors and industry execs kicked off in San Francisco this week, following last week's gi-normous Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas -- a bonanza of the latest and greatest gadgets and technology that hosts over 3,600 companies across 2.4 million square feet of expo space.  CES Digital Health Summit 2016

Among the super-cool stuff displayed CES 2016 were a futuristic robot named Pepper (hailed as "the closest thing to Rosie from The Jetsons yet"); countless smartwatches including the new Fitbit smartwatch; any number of new smart TVs and appliances that are all interconnected; and much, much more.

Of course, healthcare has been an emerging focus at CES for about six years now with the breakout Digital Health Summit held there, and diabetes is always a key topic.

Today we're looking some of the coolest announcements -- with respect to diabetes -- in the healthcare sector of CES 2016. (Stay tuned for our coverage of the JPM event early next week.)

 

Medtronic and IBM (Plus Panasonic)

Medtronic made the biggest health headlines at CES, mainly by showcasing its partnership with IBM Watson Health originally announced in IBM Watson and MedtronicApril 2014. Specifically, IBM's CEO Ginni Rometty delivered the event keynote, focusing on the cognitive computing intelligence known as IBM Watson that's being paired with medical and consumer electronic devices -- including the Minimed pump-CGM combo. Medtronic CEO Omar Ishrak joined her on stage for a demo of a new app that has the capability to predict hypoglycemia three hours in advance of it occurring (!) This is apparently at version 1.0 of the companies' collaboration, and it's in the process of being reviewed by FDA with an expected launch in the U.S. this summer.

It was just a brief demo alongside several others not related to diabetes, so details were scarce. We reached out to Medtronic for more specifics and spokeswoman Amanda Sheldon tells us this:IBM Watson Medtronic app

So far, this new this Watson app does not have a name and final features are TBD. It's simply being described as an extension of the Minimed Connect data-viewing system launched last Fall. Pricing will be determined closer to launch, and Sheldon says it will be available on both iOS and Android devices.

"We plan to have Watson synthesize information from Medtronic insulin pumps and CGM devices -- detailed information like the rate of insulin delivered, the constantly fluctuating glucose level and carbohydrate intake information. The app may also integrate information sources like wearable activity trackers, digital scales, geo-location data, calendar details and even the weather, to develop more valuable and personalized insights," Sheldon says.

"IBM and Medtronic also intend to partner with other companies and incorporate their data and expertise in areas such as nutrition. By combining new data sources and analyzing it in new ways, we hope to develop tools that will improve people’s ability to manage their diabetes."

Note that this is separate from the Minimed 640G device, the next generation pump-CGM combo system that can predict hypos up to 30 minutes in advance and suspend insulin to prevent those Lows. The under-development 640G (expected to be filed with the FDA early this year) only looks at glucose values from the CGM sensor, while the new Watson app will have much deeper analytical capabilities.

"With IBM Watson, we are looking at all the contextual data from a variety of data sources to recognize patterns -- those for an individual or patterns of groups of people who are alike," Sheldon explains. "This would enable us to make predictions with a high level of accuracy up to 3 hours in advance. This will help the person with diabetes make more informed decisions. However, this app would not take action such as the MiniMed 640G would do."

Sounds very cool, and the demo broadcast live during the CES keynote was pretty impressive. Of course, the predictions are only as good as the data supplied, so let's hope any gaps in sensor accuracy and patient reporting don't get in the way.

Looking forward to seeing this in the summer, Medtronic and IBM Watson!

Speaking of partnerships, Panasonic was also represented at CES, which is noteworthy for our D-Community because the electronics company venture known as Panasonic Healthcare acquired Bayer Diabetes Care last summer and the deal closed early this year. Just recently, Bayer customers have been receiving letters about this change and how the former Bayer will now be known as Ascensia Diabetes Care under Panasonic. We asked Medtronic if this changes anything in regard to their glucose meters that link to Minimed pumps, and were told by Sheldon that "it doesn't change anything."

 

AT&T Pairs with an All-Inclusive Meter

Anyone remember the all-in-one YoFiMeter that we profiled in early 2014? At this year's CES event, phone tech giant AT&T announced that it has teamed up with this La Jolla, CA, company (YoFi was previously partnered up with Qualcomm). The aim is to enable PWDs (people with diabetes) to wirelessly transmit their blood sugar results, plus "other biometric data and voice notes" to providers and caregivers over AT&T’s highly secure network. This is being reviewd by FDA now, "with production expected to start in early 2016," according to the announcement.

YoFiMeterA bit smaller and thicker than an early-generation iPhone, this YoFiMeter has two cassettes inside: one with 20 test strips (half the length of a regular strip because you never touch them, other than to apply blood) and a cassette with 20 lancets. It has one button that activates the entire system, another that fires the lancet, and a third that disposes of the used strip. It sports a color touch screen, and a "recording device" built into the meter that does away with the need for manual number logging, because you can speak your results!

The meter automatically sends test results to the cloud, and the cell air time is integrated into the cost of the strip cassette so you don't need to subscribe with a carrier, we're told.

Obviously, we're always a little skeptical about these all-inclusive glucose meters, which have experienced years of delay at the FDA gate in the past. Still, it's encouraging to see the recent FDA approval of the Dario all-in-one meter, made by Israel-based LabStyle Innovations. That meter is expected to launch in the States very soon, so that may bode well for YoFiMeter and AT&T here.

 

VisioMed's Bewell Connect App + Meter

Bewell ConnectFrench health company VisioMed introduced its so-called Bewell Connect system, which includes a smartphone app that communicates with a number of different connected devices like a glucose meter, thermostat, blood pressure monitor, and blood oxygen sensor. All of them have names that start with My, so the glucose meter for example would be MyGluco.

The company pitches this as a “virtual checkup” toolset, but it goes beyond that by allowing the user to share the data with a physician just by pushing a button on the mobile app via their BewellCheck-Up feature. In France where it’s currently available, the app locates nearby providers in the national medical service. VisioMed says that alongside working to gain FDA clearance for its meter, it's also working to establish a network of connected physicians in the U.S. for a similar service. On the company's website, the MyGluco device is listed at an expected price point of $99, but who knows if it will really cost that if and when it hits the market here in the U.S.?

 

A Body Chemistry Biosensor

Going a step beyond the Bewell concept was something called the Lumee, a new universal biosensor unveiled at CES by San Francisco startup Profusa.

LumeeThis is a single sensor that can continuously monitor a variety of body chemistry stats, including glucose and oxygen levels, heart rate, respiration and more, and securely transmit the data anywhere via a smartphone app.

Physically, it's reminiscent of the Abbott Libre glucose flash technology, that includes a small 3-5 milimeter sensor adhered to the skin, with readings taken by the user by passing a separate optical reader over it to pick up the fluorescent signal.

Profusa explains the science behind it this way: "Each biosensor is comprised of a bioengineered 'smart hydrogel' (similar to contact lens material) forming a porous, tissue-integrating scaffold that induces capillary and cellular in-growth from surrounding tissue. The smart gel is linked to a light-emitting molecule that contin­uously signals the presence of a body chemical such as oxygen, glucose, or other biomarker."

Apparently this could also be used for checking complications like diabetic ulcers, artery and nerve damage, and other issues where oxygen levels inside the body are off.

This is investigational at this point and still in clinical trials, and no timeline has been announced yet for regulatory review. But we're pretty sure this is a glimpse into the future of "biosensing," in which CGM will be combined with taking other physical readings in a single sensor.

 

DietSensor, Made by D-Parents

One of the coolest new gadgets unveiled at the CES Health Summit this year was the DietSensor, which is actually the brainchild of two parents of a child with type 1.

DietSensorThis pocket-sized food scanning device and mobile app with coaching feature is the first of its kind to hit the consumer market, and it was actually named a "Best of Innovation Awards Honoree" at CES 2016, honoring it as one of the 27 best digital innovations in the world. It uses SCiO, a molecular sensor that helps you figure out the chemical makeup of your food or drink by analyzing how the molecules interact using light. Wow - futuristic stuff!

Inventor and D-Dad Remy Bonnasse and wife Astrid came up with the idea in 2014 after their 9-year-old daughter was diagnosed with T1D and they searched for a way to easily track carbs and dose insulin.

To use the DietSensor, you just hold a small scanner over the food and click the button to light up the thin handheld device the size of a pager, and it takes a photo and transmits that to the smartphone DietSensor app to judge the volume. Then DietSensor reports back with the nutritional value of the food scanned based on the information stored in its database.

At the moment, it only can handle basic foods with one layer, like a piece of bread, burger patty, or slice of cheese; not a bowl of cereal or sandwich. But the capability to handle more complex foods is in the works, of course.

Right now, the database contains info on 600,000 food items, and this is constantly being updated. 

The DietSensor will be available later in the year, possibly by Fall. It is pretty costly, with a price tag of $249 for the SCIO sensor itself and a $10 monthly subscription for the database connection. But Holy Carbonator! If this thing is even fairly accurate, what a helpful tool!

 

Sensing Food Allergins and Gluten

Another great food tool that caught our eye was the Nima food allergin detector by 6SensorLabs out of San Francisco.

NimaIt's a sleek black little triangle device that you set on the table where you're eating. You simply insert a food sample into its small removable tube capsule and insert that into the triangle to allow it to test for anything you may be allergic to -- gluten, peanuts, dairy, etc. It can detect gluten down to 20 parts per million (ppm), which is pretty darn sensitive!

The results are displayed on right on the device: a smile if you're good to go without any allergins detected, or a frown if it finds any traces.

Of course, the Nima also has a companion app that connects via Bluetooth to the little triangle tester for easy food tracking and reference.

This one is also a bit costly, at $199 for a starter kit that includes three capsules or a starter kit + a 12-pack of capsules for $247. Additional capsules are about $4 each. The Nima is available for pre-order now and is expected to start shipping in mid-year.

 

More Quell for Diabetic Neuropathy

Massachusetts company NeuroMetrix announced FDA approval of its second-generation pain relief wearable device Quell. This is a very cool first-of-its-kind, drug-free option for reducing the pain of neuropathy, sciatica, and other chronic pain through neural pulses — delivered by a band wrapped just below the knee, with a companion app that allows users to change settings and track sessions via a smartphone or iPad. Quell pain reliever

It was unveiled last summer (see our coverage here), and its makers boast that it is “clinically proven to start relieving chronic pain in as little as 15 minutes… (with) FDA cleared prescription-strength technology that works with your own body by stimulating your nerves and blocking pain signals in your body.”

The new upgraded version with extended battery life and advanced sleep tracking will be available in March, with a free upgrade program for existing Quell users who send their earlier-gen devices back in for exchange.

 

Diabetes + mHealth

Among the core diabetes players represented at CES were Dexcom, showing off their newest G5 Mobile system just approved last Fall, and featuring their "ecosystem approach to data" highlighting partnerships with Tidepool and Meal Memory, among others.

A handful of diabetes execs were also part of panel discussions at the CES Digital Health Summit, too. Amy Foley of JnJ Diabetes Solutions, who attended several of these sessions noted how "successful mHealth tech companies need to connect patients, data, and payers in order to be effective." Amen!

Meanwhile, D-industry analyst David Kliff of Diabetic Investor had this observation: "Every company has a Bluetooth-enabled meter now, and the problem is that we're not pushing the edge of the envelope tech-wise with that anymore... Look at it this way: When you go online and use Google or Facebook, they're collecting pieces of information about us and fine-tuning what we see. I don't see ads for asthma, I see diabetes ads online. Diabetes companies need to take hold of that same kind of transformation and more effectively tailor their messages based on that data."

That's a little creepy, but most likely an inevitable part of our future in the diabetes mHealth world.

 

{Updates on diabetes tech from #JPM2016 coming next week.}

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.