So far, wearable devices have largely fallen into two broad categories: consumer products that gather only a limited range of daily health data or more comprehensive devices that require a prescription to monitor or treat a specific medical condition.
Abbott, however, is trying to bridge that gap. In a keynote address at the Consumer Technology Association’s CES conference Thursday—complete with a cameo from Laurence Fishburne—CEO Robert Ford introduced Lingo, a new line of consumer biowearable sensors that will collect a broader range of biological readings to help users optimize their exercise and nutrition regimens and overall health.
The Lingo sensors—which are still under development and aren’t intended for medical use—will track a series of indicators linked to metabolic health, targeting elite athletes and more casual exercisers alike. The technology is based on Abbott’s existing Freestyle Libre diabetes monitoring technology.
“Diabetes was our first priority, and we wanted to get it right, so we focused intently on it,” Ford said. “Now that we have the evidence and the expertise that comes from 3.5 million users, we’re going to take it to the next level. We’re going to translate a wide range of biometric signals: glucose, ketones, lactate and alcohol.”
The glucose sensor has already been vetted by long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge, who used the technology to shape his training in the lead-up to running the world’s first sub-two-hour marathon. Ford noted that, even when used by those engaging in less strenuous physical activity, “understanding your glucose patterns is key to a broad range of health benefits, from weight management to better energy and sleep.”
The ketone sensor will be able to detect when a user’s body is in a state of ketosis and use that to offer insights into dieting and weight loss efforts, while the lactate sensor will measure lactic acid buildup during exercise to improve recovery time.
Finally, Ford said, “The Lingo alcohol sensor is going to help you make some better decisions, I can tell you that.” It could one day connect to users’ vehicles to prevent drunk driving and will monitor alcohol intake, potentially “helping you decide just how much of Abbott’s Pedialyte you need to drink after whatever you did last night,” he added, in a winking reference to the popular off-label use of the rehydration drink as a hangover cure.
“It’s amazing what our bodies can tell us, and with Lingo, it’s expected that you’ll understand what your body really needs and what’s good for you,” he said. “Your body is constantly talking to you, and now it’s time to listen.”
Ford also discussed in his address Abbott’s plans both to develop new diagnostic tests and to make them widely available. New additions to the company’s diagnostic slate will be designed in the same vein as recent offerings like the i-STAT blood test for traumatic brain injury and the BinaxNow rapid antigen test for COVID-19—70 million of which will be manufactured this month alone.
“These simple tests will become more widely available for people to do at home. They’re going to talk to our phones, and they’re going to communicate with our doctors,” he said. “The future of decentralized and democratized testing will enable us to have the right test at the right place at the right time and will give everyone actionable next steps.”