Cutting-Edge Tech for Diabetes on the Horizon

It's become a punchline in the tech industry that every start-up is out to change the world. When it comes to medical technology, however, some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley are poised to do just that.

Apple, Google and Amazon have announced or are reported to be developing cutting-edge technologies for managing diabetes, one of the fastest-growing chronic illnesses, affecting more than 420 million people worldwide.

Experts say we're at the dawn of a new era of personal technology for a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

"It really isn't a surprise you'd see companies like Apple and Google focusing on this," said Mike Matson, a senior analyst at the investment firm Needham & Co. "They're always looking for new opportunities for growth and healthcare is a big market."

Managing a chronic condition can depend on easy access to data, he said. "If you're a Google or Apple, you know how to manage data."

The latest diabetes-related tech endeavor to be announced is the Alexa Diabetes Challenge, which focuses on finding ways for the Amazon Echo smart speaker -- and its Alexa digital assistant -- to assist people with Type 2 diabetes in living healthier lives.

Type 2 is by far the most common form of diabetes, frequently associated with obesity. Roughly 95% of the nearly 30 million Americans with diabetes are Type 2.

The Alexa challenge features a $125,000 grand prize for whoever comes up with the best diabetes app for the Amazon Echo, as well as $25,000 each for up to five finalists. Funding is being provided by the drug company Merck, manufacturer of the Type 2 meds Januvia and Janumet.

Not surprisingly for the tech industry, the contest boasts a very fast pace. It was announced in April. The deadline for submissions was last month. Finalists will be announced...

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