Not content just showcasing their own future innovations at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), diabetes device manufacturer Dexcom invited several app developers to showcase their products at their booth. We got a chance to talk with Doug Kanter of Databetes about their iPhone app, Meal Memory, which hit the iTunes store just in time for the show.
In addition to being a nutrition-focused app tailored specifically for people with type 1 diabetes, the Meal Memory app also embodies Dexcom’s emphasis on partnering with the diabetes tech community to help share diabetes data from their devices. At CES, Dexcom highlighted 9 partners that eventually hope to seamlessly integrate CGM data.
The Meal Memory App: A Personal Passion Project
I first came across Doug Kanter, a Type 1 diabetic, approximately one year ago after I came across his cleverly titled Databetic blog. In the year 2012, he conducted a “yearlong quantified self project where he tracked every blood sugar reading, every insulin dose, every meal and all his activity data.” During that time, his blood sugar control improved dramatically, making it the healthiest year of his life in terms of blood glucose control. Read his excellent blog post recapping his year here.
At 2015 CES, he told us that one of the major successes was an experiment consisting of taking pictures and syncing it with his blood sugar data. He states, “While I kept a text recording of what I ate, the picture of the meal was more effective in jogging my memory about what I ate and giving me immediate feedback.”
This led him to create Meal Memory, which is now available for both iOS and Android. The premise is refreshingly simple: take a photo of your food and enter your pre-meal blood sugar. Two hours later, the app will remind you to enter your post-prandial sugar. The app then creates a visual diary of various foods/meals with two color-coded dots that represent how the food affected your individual blood sugar.
Unlike Type 2 diabetes where blood glucose variations are more predictable, Type 1 diabetes causes wild fluctuations in blood sugar based on the different glycemic indexes of food and can even vary across time of day. Curiously, these responses often differ from patient to patient. I’ve had countless people with Type 1 diabetes tell me, “what really raises my blood sugar is _____,” where _____ is a different food for each person.
While it might not have the objective information that MyFitnessPal might capture in terms of calorie and carbohydrate counts, Meal Memory focuses on how certain meals affect a users blood sugar. Mr. Kanter also believes that the simplicity and speed of snapping a photo of a meal is important for managing a chronic condition.
Dexcom’s Emphasis on Third Party Integration
Meal Memory’s showing at Dexcom’s 2015 CES Booth represented Dexcom’s commitment to supporting the transfer of data from their continuous glucose monitors to various third parties, including software developers and hardware manufacturers. The 9 partners that were highlighted at the booth included previously discussed Tidepool.
Doug Kanter describes the optimism in the diabetes community: “It’s exciting that Dexcom is opening up their data streams and allowing us to develop these types of solutions. I think the patient community will benefit greatly from the coming ecosystem of apps built upon this foundation.”
Dexcom’s partner insulin pump manufacturers (Tandem, Insulet, and Animas) also will benefit significantly from Dexcom’s third party support. Animas was the first beneficiary, as it received an early Christmas present when the FDA cleared the Animas Vibe, the first third party insulin pump that can synchronize with and display glucose data from a Dexcom.
San Diego-based Tandem, makers of the only touchscreen insulin pump T:Slim, have already filed for FDA approval for their Dexcom-integrated device. Similarly, Insulet makes the only tubeless insulin pump (named OmniPod) and hopes to release a Dexcom-compatible version of their OmniPod.
All in all, the refreshing takeaway from the Dexcom booth at the Consumer Electronics Show is that Dexcom is committed to liberating the glucose data. This shift towards open-ness should be welcome news for people with diabetes and also serves as a warning shot to industry leaders Medtronic.