At the beginning of summer 2016, the 8-year-old daughter of one of my best friends was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My friends had an extended hospital whilst their daughter situation was stabilized, and like so many parents of diabetic children, my friends were discovering what awaited them thereafter.
Searching for a solution
They desperately searched for information, exploring any possible alternative that might help them manage their daughter’s diabetes. This search led them to an article about dogs trained to detect nocturnal hypoglycemia. As I also have another good friend who specializes in animal assisted therapy, they asked me to talk to her to find out more.
Until that moment I had never been interested in diabetes, and I was vaguely aware of some of problems diabetics faced managing their glucose levels. Knowing that a specially trained dog might help to watch over their daughter, I saw that it was by no means a solution. I began to read and research about nocturnal hypoglycemia. I stumbled upon this article by the blogger Northern Mum, and was shocked to fully understand the pressure that monitoring nocturnal hypoglycemia places on the parents of diabetic children. In fact, my own teenage daughter told me that the father of classmate with type 1 diabeties had accompanied his son’s class to the school camp exclusively to control his son’s sugar during the night.
The pre-existing technologies
Being an Electronics Engineer, I could not believe that there was no technological solution to such a serious problem, so I started looking at the available alarm systems for nocturnal hypoglycemia. I found several devices had already failed in the market due to their lack of success, such as GlucoWatch or HypoMon, and that there were some other devices available, such as Diabetes Sentry but with contradictory reports about their accuracy and reliability.
It was clear to me that any solution required a CGM (Continuous Glucose Meter) sensor, and I found out that there were only three technologies available on the market:
– Abbott FreeStyle Libre: The most widespread in our environment, but without alarm management.
– Medtronic Enlite: Able to manage alarms, but only through the associated insulin pump.
– Dexcom G4: Capable of managing alarms but requires two daily calibrations, and was far less compact as the FreeStyle .
In another fantastic article, comparing the G4 and the FSL, they concluded that the FSL was superior in all aspects, but that the fact that the G4 was able to manage alarms made it the preferred option. In the Jedi Azucarado blog I found another very detailed comparative, which led me to a similar conclusion.
I began to think, What if we could somehow manage alarms using the FreeStyle Libre sensor? Here is where another good friend who is a Computer Engineer and the husband of a type 1 diabetic came into play. He explained to me that the FreeStyle reader was able to read the CGM sensor data through NFC technology, and in fact there were various Apps for Android mobile phones with NFC capacity, that can read Free FreeStyle data (Glimp or Liapp are the most popular). My friend came up with a great idea: What if the child could carry the mobile on the sensor, using a bracelet (like the ones used to carry the mobile while practicing sports) to hold the mobile in place, then the mobile could take readings from time to time, and generate a call or alarm to alert the parents in case of hypoglycemia?
The team and the first steps
From there, we started on the development of the prototype and whilst overcoming the various obstacles, the third member of GlucoNightWatch came onbord, a Telecommunication Engineer who is a professional mobile App developer.
After a seemingly endless testing, including personally wearing several FreeStyle Free sensors throughout the summer to test the different versions of the App, finally in September 2016, having been convinced of the reliability of the system, I delivered to my friends a modified bracelet incorporating a mobile phone running the App.
They told me it simply changed their lives. …
In view of the success, we decided that the App had to be made available to anyone who needed it, and we started working to improve the design of the App to be suitable for the general public. We have also been gradually increasing the number of test users involving other diabetic children. The feedback we received from the parents has been so positive that it has been encouraging us to launch the solution as fast as possible.
The GNW App is already here!
GlucoNightWatch is now finally here and available to download. If we manage to make life even a little easier for families with diabetic children, then all the effort will have been well worth it.