New IBM Watson app to predict low blood sugar in diabetics

IBM has been working with Medtronic to produce an app that can predict incidences of low blood sugar in diabetics before it happens. Here are the details.

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For the millions of diabetic adults worldwide, experiencing instances of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) runs the gamut from mildly annoying to downright terrifying. Common symptoms of low blood glucose are blurry vision, fatigue, headaches, shaking and more, but extremely low blood sugar can be considered a medical emergency.

Existing monitoring methods, such as checking your glucose levels using a drop of blood, are effective, but they only tell you the blood sugar levels at that exact moment. At the 2016 CES in Las Vegas, IBM Watson and Medtronic talked about an app they've been working on to predict instances of low blood sugar in diabetics before they happen.

Medtronic is a medical device manufacturer, and part of their business is making diabetes monitoring devices such as glucose monitors and insulin pumps. By analyzing the data coming out of these devices, IBM Watson can predict low blood sugar issues as early as three hours before they actually happen, based on results from a pilot conducted with 600 anonymous patients.

With the extra time, diabetics would have a chance to take corrective action in terms of diet or medicine to avoid dealing with the effects of low blood sugar. This could provide some relief for diabetics in properly balancing their glucose levels.

The partnership was originally announced back in April 2015, but executives from both companies took the stage at CES to talk about the progress and announce that the app will likely be available this summer.

According to the original press release by Medtronic, it seems that the app could potentially be part of a bigger plan including health care professionals and personalized care plans.

This app is one of the many health science initiatives by Watson since IBM initially launched its Watson Health unit early last year. Healthcare is one of the biggest opportunities for Watson and it seems that IBM is investing more in that space than any other. Numerous hospitals are using Watson to help with diagnoses and the technology is being used in dementia detection and veterinary health as well. In August, the company shelled out $1 billion to acquire medical imaging company Merge Healthcare.

Of course, with any new technology in the medical field, compliance and security are key issues. However, IBM Watson made some announcements last fall on new efforts in health data security and compliance as well.

IBM's cognitive computing darling isn't just an academic aid, though, it's driving real revenue for the company. And, its growth in healthcare could further solidify Watson as a foundational business unit for Big Blue.

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Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers startups and enterprise technology and is passionate about the convergence of tech and culture.

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