Medtronic, Ford Partner on In-Car Diabetes System

Fridley-based Medtronic worked with Ford Motor Company to develop a prototype system that connects Ford's Sync technology to a Medtronic glucose-monitoring device.

An in-car glucose monitoring system may soon be available to those with diabetes through a collaboration between Fridley-based Medtronic, Inc., and Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford Motor Company.

The two companies announced Wednesday that they have developed an in-car prototype system that connects Ford's Sync technology to a Medtronic glucose-monitoring device via Bluetooth-which then displays the driver's glucose level on the car's dashboard display. If a driver's glucose level become too low, an alert sounds or a signal appears on the dashboard display.

Low blood sugar can cause confusion, clumsiness, dizziness, difficulty speaking, and a variety of other side effects that are potentially dangerous to drivers. Those side effects can typically be treated by eating or drinking glucose-rich foods or beverages.

The partnership between the two companies is part of a larger health and wellness initiative that Ford launched that is aimed at helping people with chronic illnesses or medical disorders-including diabetes, asthma, and allergies-manage their condition while on the go.

The prototype is still at the early conceptual stage, so it is unclear when the technology might be available for consumer use.

“Diabetes in particular is a chronic disease where frequent monitoring of blood glucose levels throughout the day is critical,” James Dallas, senior vice president of Medtronic, said in a statement. “As medical and consumer technologies converge, Medtronic is uniquely positioned to provide patients, caregivers, and physicians with actionable insight from the data our devices can gather from the human body.”

Medtronic spokesman Brian Henry said that Medtronic and Ford have been in discussions about an in-car glucose system for a number of years. Ultimately, Henry said, the company would like to develop technology that enables an insulin pump to automatically adjust when a glucose sensor indicates a low reading.

Henry added that the medical device giant is in discussions with several other companies-including IBM, Cisco, Apple, Verizon, and Qualcomm-about potential partnerships.

“There are a lot of consumer technology companies that are interested in the health care space,” Henry said. “It makes sense that we would pursue these types of relationships to see what is possible.”

Ford cited two surveys in its press release that echoed Medtronic's strategy. One recent survey conducted by CTIA-The Wireless Association and Harris Interactive found that 78 percent of U.S. consumers expressed interest in mobile health solutions. Another survey conducted by MobileStorm indicated that medical and health care apps together comprised the third fastest-growing category of smartphone applications in early 2010.

Medtronic is the world's largest medical device company and Minnesota's seventh-largest public company based on revenue, which totaled $15.8 billion in its most recently completed fiscal year.