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Posts tagged ‘diabetes apps’

Guest Post: From Inside a D-Tech Startup

Marcus is cool.  I’m pretty certain about this because he has diabetes, thus making him part of a group of people I trust without justification outside of the whole “not making insulin, either” part.  (And he makes entertaining videos, but that’s a whole separate post.)  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be hosting some guest posts here and there, and today, Marcus is taking over SUM to talk about how his day job intersects with his all-the-time disease, and what kind of help he’s looking for from our diabetes community.

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Like most of you, I have plenty of thoughts on what device manufacturers for diabetes should be doing differently. Through my thirty-two years of being T1, I’ve used countless pumps, CGMs, and meters. Opinions? I’ve got plenty of them.

I suppose that’s why I jumped at the chance to get an insider’s view as Chief Marketing Officer for Aspire Universal, the venture company that supports Tempo Health. Tempo is a mobile health start-up focused on developing new personalized technologies for diabetes patients.  Think of it as the most the sophisticated bolus calculator you ever saw, but one that does the math for you, taking into account not just carbs and insulin, but heart rate, skin temperature, altitude and more.

Personalized diabetes also means dynamic diabetes. An app I’m testing this week actually has four different blood glucose models running constantly, and constantly updates itself to use the most accurate one with each calibration.

Before you run from this post thinking that Kerri sold this space to the highest bidder, relax.  [Editor’s note:  The bids weren’t that high.  Second note:  This is a joke; no money was exchanged for this post, nor would there ever be.]  I’ve got nothing to sell you, yet. But I can give you my view of what changing diabetes looks like from this side of the blank white board and what’s required to take an idea and turn it into a useful product for diabetes treatment.

Tempo Health has a mandate from our VC to apply machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) to find new solutions for diabetes management. Simply put, we pull data off of devices (like a Dexcom G5 or a FitBit) and run it through seriously crazy math to predict your future BG. The most important word there is “your.” Every T1 knows that everything changes our BG every day. Some days our bolus calculations are spot-on, but often they’re not.

Assuming we can achieve personalized diabetes management with machine learning, there are many ways we could deploy the solutions: better bolus calculators for insulin pumps, non-invasive CGMs, etc. As the IoT continues to grow, so will the data and so will the insights that come out of the data.

When I first heard about using machine learning this way, I was taken aback. Months later, I can tell you that it’s not the math that’s holding back diabetes innovation. Here are three immediate hurdles that come to mind (relax, FDA – I’m giving you a pass this time around):

  1. Data. Everyone operating in the space needs data. Data from trials. Data from partners. Data from you. But truth is, we need more. Last I counted, there were twenty-four obvious factors that affect blood glucose, but the most robust integrated databases today usually include only three: carbs, insulin and BG. We need more data, which means…
  2. Willingness to share data. Vendors need to work together and share data with each other in joint ventures to help solve the problem. If you keep your chocolate bar and I keep my peanut butter, we’ll never have my favorite way to treat a low.
  3. Quantifying the potential value of personalized solutions is complex. If approaches to diabetes management are unique to each person, be it with data or devices, the value proposition per person is also unique.

The most exciting part about those obstacles is that while these are the things we bang our heads against the wall about every day right now, they don’t for a moment strike me as insurmountable. In fact, when I look at what’s going on in the industry, I see overcoming them as inevitable. Better technological approaches to diabetes treatment are coming soon and if you’re interested, you can be part of the revolution.

On our website, we have a simple form where you can sign up to be a beta user for our products. Like all studies, criteria vary. Sometimes we want people local to our Lancaster, PA offices and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we’re trying out apps for pump patients and other times we’re looking at pen users. So I can’t promise we’ll use you, but we’d love to have you sign up today. Just go to

Marcus Grimm is CMO for Aspire Universal, serving as a startup storyteller for multiple ventures. He’s also the Running Coach for Diabetes Training Camp is on the Board of the Diabetes Sports Project and his local JDRF. Follow him on Twitter at @marcusgrimm.

Figwee: An App I Might Actually Use.

At the TCOYD conference in Washington, DC this past weekend, I was tasked with co-leading a session about digital tools for diabetes management (saucily named “There’s An App for That”) alongside Glu’s Anna Floreen.  Building up to the session, she and I talked about apps we use (and don’t use) and how some apps are just filler apps (see also: appholes).

There are apps I use pretty regularly, but only one of them is specific to diabetes (the One Touch Reveal app that works with the Verio Sync).  The others are health-related apps that I tweak for diabetes use.  But at dinner the night before the app session, I found out about an app that might truly help me corral some diabetes stuff (hat tip to Jeremy Pettus):  Figwee.

Figwee is an app with a silly name, but a truly useful purpose because it MAKES PORTIONS MAKE SENSE.  I’m notorious for SWAG’ing a bolus here and there, and that’s mostly because I have trouble measuring and precisely counting the nutritional content of my food.  I’ll eyeball things here and there, but if I don’t regularly refresh my eyes as to what portion sizes should, and actually do, look like, I make a mess of things.

Figwee gives visual representations of portion sizes.  With nutritional information.  And a funky sliding-bar that lets you shrink and grow the portion sizes, which is a trippy thing to play with:

Little bit of pasta?  Got it.  But are you having more?  (Gives a bird’s-eye view and a side-view.)

Add some sauce (where so many extra carbs, etc. sometimes hide):

I love this.  I’ve already used it to help me eyeball portion sizes more accurately for chicken and steak:

And the full nutritional breakdown helps remind me that I am not only keeping an eye on carbs, but also fat and protein and all the other “stuff” in food.

The app even has alcohol:

I have no affiliation with this app and I’m not being compensated to review it (and I paid the $1.99 required to download it), but I wanted to share because it’s worth it.  The photos I’ve posted are a little cropped so they don’t show the slide tool to increase the portion sizes and some of the nutritional information was a little mushed, but on the actual app, it’s all there.

I don’t carry measuring cups and a food scale, so an application like this really helps me make sense of the food on my plate.  You can download and play with Figwee, too, dagnabit.


My Diabetes App Wishlist.

After a long day of diabetes rule-following and making an attempt to log all of my actions [insert laugh track here], I started drumming up another diabetes application wishlist.  Because I’m beyond tired of having five different devices that speak entirely different languages/require different charging cords/can’t work on the operating system I use/hate the idea of integration.

I’m in wicked curmudgeon mode today.  But stay on my lawn for a few more minutes, because I have a list, a la Veruca Salt.

I want a diabetes application:

    • … that auto-magically siphons the results from my glucose meter and logs them in a lovely, color-coded graph and logbook on my phone and on my computer.
    • Yes, I want my data on my phone and my computer, because while my phone is with me constantly and is good for everyday spot-checking, I like having the bulk of my data stored on my computer so I can see a week at a glance, a month at a glance, and a clue as to what my A1C might be at a glance.
    • I want to be able to email all of this data as a PDF (because Excel and I have a less than harmonious relationship) to my healthcare professional and whoever else I choose.  Or I can print it and put it into a blood sugar binder that I do not currently have but would have if my logbooks were this easy to compile.
    • And then, the data from my pump should just as easily be pulled off and graphed neatly alongside the data of my glucose meter.  Insulin doses plotted alongside blood sugar checks, with the option to add a smiley face when I fucking well feel like it because some days deserve a big, fat smiley face.
    • (Frowny faces and other emoticons would be a nice bonus, to add in accordance with my whims, as emoticons are sometimes the only recourse I have against a day that’s been truly and mind-bogglingly ridiculous in those ways only diabetes can be.)
    • It should go without saying, but I’ll say it:  the data from my Dexcom should follow the same sharing and integration platform, living in logbook and pie chart harmony with my glucose meter and insulin pump.  And all of that data should be visible on all operating systems EVEN A MAC HOW ‘BOUT THAT?!
    • I want to be able to look at this data in several different ways: at-a-glance, where I can see how my day is going (similar to the One Touch Reveal app); how a week looks, where I can see data broken into high-level pie charts, detailed logbooks, and a bunch of in-between options; and what I’d call an A1C level-glance, which would give me data (detailed and high-level) about how all of my numbers have tracked over the course of three months.
    • All of this data should move from my devices to the application without needing to cobble together proprietary cables.  Bluetooth is fine.  Cloud is fine.  Bluetooth cloud with a side of hazelnut iced coffee would be ideal.
    • Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if the application also synced up with my FitBit (or Shine or whatever other fitness tracker is the thing in use these days) so that I could see how exercise plots against blood sugar checks or insulin doses?  Yes, yes it would.
    • Another excellent detail would be if the application, upon access the diabetes devices, would confirm that each device is synced up with the right time zone.  So when I travel and the clock on my phone is updated, so are my devices.
    • And lastly, NO DONGLES.  I can’t handle that word. It’s too silly.

I know this kind of application isn’t flashy enough, and doesn’t benefit each respective company enough to actually work together and create something cohesive and workable, with an easy data flow and an even easier user interface, but whatever.  A girl can dream, right?


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