Google Enters Healthcare
Most people think of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) as a search engine. Some might be aware of the company's other technological advances, such as computer-operated cars, "Google Glass," an optical device that displays information as a hands-free smartphone, or its high altitude balloons, bringing Internet service to remote regions in Africa and Southeast Asia. However, few people know of Google's latest ideas about healthcare. As it turns out -- Google has been pioneering longevity research and helping diabetics.
Google is a major investor in California Life Company (Calico), an organization working on anti-aging (longevity) research. Arthur Levinson, a biotech pioneer, previous chairman of the board of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), chief executive at Genentech, and a board member of Google, leads the project. He reports his findings directly to Google's CEO Larry Page.
Google's goal with the project is, characteristically, simple: extend human life. In partnership with Calico Google hopes to mine the immense amount of data currently available about human health that has yet to be organized, turning it into usable information. If the project succeeds, Calico will proceed with a relevant product pipeline.
Diabetes Through A New Lens
Google is researching ways to improve a diabetics' ability to understand their condition. Like Google Glass, this involves a lens-in this case, a special contact lens that allows diabetics to "see" their own glucose levels. A tiny wireless chip in the contact lens serves as a sensor, measuring glucose levels. The chips are folded into two soft layers of the lens.
Although the technology is revolutionary, the premise is fairly straightforward: Scientists have identified tears as a quick way of almost instantaneously detecting changes in blood sugar levels; and the lens reads moisture levels in the eyes. The tiny sensors are so small they look like glitter yet are powerful enough to detect a fall in glucose levels within a second. Now Google is working on a way to inform users what the sensors detect. The company is working on creating miniscule LED lights to alert users when their blood sugar falls to a critical level.
Although this venture into healthcare may seem like a deviation from Google's mission to organize and make accessible the world's information-it is simply another way to connect the dots. For healthcare to be more effective, the industry needs better search algorithms, database management, and cloud storage to handle its growing amounts of information. With the rate of knowledge in the world doubling every 12 months, along with research efficiency increasing daily, Google is also moving quickly to resolve this quiet crisis in healthcare information management.
Still At The Forefront For Investors
Google continues to grow and innovate at an extraordinary pace. While comparable companies, such as Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), have struggled to keep up with technological breakthroughs and lack dynamism at top levels (See our previous article on Microsoft's current lack of leadership.) - or are more heavily dependent on potentially volatile market events (See our previous article on Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) stake in the Chinese giant Alibaba.) Google consistently performs at the vanguard of global innovation-and will likely continue to be a profitable growth investment in 2014.