Movano CEO on his RF glucose sensor – and building a real wearable for women

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The Movano Ring is one of our most anticipated wearables, but the company is working on more than just a smart ring.

While the first version of its smart ring for women is expected to land in 2022, the company is also working on a new RF chip, which it says could herald better blood sugar and blood pressure tracking for consumers.

The company assembled a strong team of female senior executives, including former Fitbit executive Stacy Salvi and Nan Kirsten Forte, who developed the WebMD Symptom Checker.

And the ring is on the right track, with the company announcing successful trials of its heart rate and SpO2 sensors in a study with the University of California, San Francisco.

We spoke exclusively to Movano CEO John Mastrototaro about his plans for his smart ring – and his upcoming RF bio-sensor, which could herald a new era of biometric tracking.

Create a smart ring for women

The Movano ring was announced in December 2021 and is aimed specifically at women.

Mastrototaro told Wareable that the company wanted to create a device specifically designed for women, due to a lack of women-specific clothing on the market:

“There were a number of reasons why we thought it was the right thing to do. First, we believe that women have been largely underserved by the wearable market today. We feel like a lot of the products look like they were originally designed for men, he said.

Smart rings have gained traction over the past few years, with Oura in particular having carved out a niche for itself. But we’ve seen plenty drop by the wayside, including the success of Motiv and Amazon’s smart ring as well.

But Mastrototaro said the smart ring form factor made sense for Movano, which could have put its technology in any form factor:

“Because we focus on women, we thought why not look for a fashionable and aesthetic ring form factor for women to enjoy wearing,” he said.

But making a smart ring adds challenges.

“Developing such a small form factor is not that easy. It is difficult to reduce the technology, not only in terms of the outer dimensions of the ring, but also the thickness of the network,” Mastrototaro said.

The Movano Ring will initially track heart rate, SpO2 heart rate variability, respiratory rate, temperature, sleep, status and activity, and leveling calories burned, as well as monitoring a few metrics related to women. Not revolutionary – but if it can do it in a form factor that women can use, that would be a good start.

However, Movano intends to go much further – and future updates and releases will bring it closer to a medical device.

A medical device company

Movano Ring

“We are a medical device company,” Mastrototaro told Wareable.

“Over the next three to five years, you know, I’m expecting six to ten different measurements, all of which are in one product, all of which are FDA approved,” he continued.

This means the first-gen product will be improved in subsequent generations – and Mastrototaro said over-the-air updates will continue to add medical features.

“There will be live updates to this particular platform that will add functionality over time. And then at some point we may flip the switch for new hardware because we’ve added a new sensing element. »

Build a new type of chip

movono ring runner

But it’s the sensing element that might be the most exciting part of Movano’s future in wearables.

It has created and tested a new type of sensor chip, which uses RF instead of optical sensors – and Mastrototaro believes Movano has a “good chance” of detecting glucose and blood pressure, non-invasively, from wrist or finger.

The sensor transmits RF energy using millimeter wave technology – and it is currently being tested in prototypes.

“We see pulsed pressure waveforms with the RF energy. Then we look at waveform properties and waveform characteristics that we try to translate and correlate to known blood pressure or glucose,” Mastrototaro explained.

The end of skin pigmentation problems

skin pigmentation problems

We’ve talked at length about Rockley Photonics and its laser sensor, which the company says can track metrics as diverse as alcohol, hydration, glucose, and blood pressure. And it could land on a medical-grade device before the end of 2022. But Mastrototaro explained how the Movano sensor differs:

“There are certainly other companies considering this. Rockley Photonics has a bloated, more robust, and more faithful optical solution to try to do some of these measurements. [You can watch Rockley’s CEO talk about its wearable sensor at Wareable’s event from last June.]

“Our founder is an RF expert. When we started looking at the RF data, we could see the signal changes representative of glucose – and so that formed the genesis of what we were doing for our RF sensor,” explained Mastrototaro.

And RF technology could spell the end of the problems faced by people of color, who have seen the reduced accuracy of optical technologies due to skin pigmentation. Optical sensors power just about every wearable device – but are pretty rudimentary in terms of the technology used.

“We don’t suffer from skin pigmentation issues like an optical sensor would, but we still have difficulty extracting that glucose-specific signal from all the other constituents that make up, you know, the interstitial fluid in the blood,” Mastrototaro said.

Focus on millions of people in the United States with pre-diabetes

Solving the problem of noninvasive glucose monitoring will take time, especially to get FDA approval.

But Mastrototaro thinks we could see different, less perfect glucose tracking for consumers, before we achieve the kind of accuracy needed for type 1 diabetics.

Mastrototaro talked about initial testing of partially invasive sensors and revealed that even with lower accuracy, they could still be useful.

“The initial sensors weren’t as accurate, but they proved to be very valuable and very useful in healthcare because people could really see trends over time.

“Our focus, as a company, will not be on people with type 1 diabetes. You have Medtronic, Dexcom Abbott and the insulin pump companies, you know, that really focus on that market.

“We are focused on tens of millions of people in the United States who have pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or people with pre-hypertension. We really need to help people subtly improve their lifestyle, in certain areas, to prevent this from happening. That’s what we want to do with a solution.

Mastrototaro talks about wearable devices that look at trends in blood glucose data and show levels relative to personal baselines, rather than absolute readings. This would be akin to how Fitbit presents its body temperature and estimated oxygen variability readings.

“I think it’s possible to let people know what’s going on in general with those particular metrics, and subtle changes or tweaks or things that they’ve done and how that’s affected those metrics over time. time so they can adapt to the future.”

The Movano Ring is currently slated for release in 2023.

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