When we recently published our product review of Roche Diabetes' new Accu-Chek Connect meter, we criticized how this Bluetooth-enabled device seems to be interoperable in name only -- because it doesn't connect with other diabetes devices, even those from the same company.
Today, we present another view of that product from none other than Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, the guy to know in the world of diabetes device interoperability. He is director of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation in Toronto and has long been leading the charge to establish industry standards for the interoperability of diabetes technology.
To Joe and his colleagues, the new Accu-Chek Connect system is indeed a huge step forward, even if that's not obvious to patients at this time.
As it turns out, in related news today, Glooko has announced that it's now added this Accu-Chek Connect to the list of those compatible with the advanced data platform -- a win for more data-viewing options for people with diabetes!
A Guest Post by Joe Cafazzo
Roche’s new Accu-Chek Aviva Connect meter has many new, notable features that I’m sure will please those who appreciate advanced features such as bolus calculations and the ability to log your readings on your phone.
But perhaps the most significant feature is one that is not mentioned in patient product reviews, in ads, or even splashed on its packaging.
Roche’s new meter is a breakthrough in device interoperability in its use of Bluetooth. Yes, of course there are other meters that use Bluetooth, but this meter is notable in that it conforms to the Bluetooth Glucose Profile standard.
Why this is so important is that until now, manufacturers of diabetes devices have readily adopted Bluetooth for use in their products, only to layer on proprietary software so that it renders their product unable to communicate with other devices and software.
The Bluetooth Glucose Profile solves this problem. Industry experts working through the Bluetooth Working Group, defined a standard for the software layer for Bluetooth technology so that your BG readings could be easily used with other systems that also conform to the Glucose Profile standard.
These Profiles are used in other Bluetooth technologies too. Those Bluetooth speakers that you bought at Best Buy work with your iPhone, your PC, and your Android tablet because they use a specific audio profile developed by industry working through the same Bluetooth Working Group process.
Without it, we would have a variety of speakers that only work with specific makes and models of devices. Imagine having to buy a Samsung Galaxy only compatible Bluetooth speaker. What’s worse is what if your speakers wouldn’t work with Spotify? Pandora speakers anyone? Luckily we don’t have these problems with Bluetooth audio devices. But this is precisely the crappy situation that we have with diabetes devices.
Despite some of the recent perceived advances on the device interoperability front, nothing has really fundamentally changed about how industry is designing their technologies. They are still proprietary and they still only work with a few select devices or software applications, if at all.
The new Roche Accu-Chek is a breakthrough in that it opens up access to the device to anyone who is willing to use the Glucose Profile standard, which is freely available.
The irony now is that this device appears to entirely incompatible with just about everything that is on the market, since current devices and software don’t use the standard and only speak to propriety devices and software.
It's now incumbent on the rest of the industry to support the open standard, not the other way around. Roche’s meter not being compatible with Roche pump or software is a funny consequence of all of this. Their old products were all proprietary and thus don't work with their new open device. Somehow, I don't think this will be the case in the next cycle of new devices, and I doubt that it will be only Roche that offers such breakthroughs in the coming years.
This may be all frustrating to you now, since we’ve all be waiting for so long to have all of our diabetes stuff “just work together," but it's going to take a full refresh of the current generation of technology to get all of the proprietary products out of the marketplace.
Even with these open standards freely available, including one for CGM devices, there is no certain guarantee that the diabetes industry will use the standard. There are many reasons for this, and they are not what you want to hear: concerns about liability of how the data is used, and how making their products compatible with third-party products could potentially undermine their own product offerings.
In the end though, it’s going to be worth it when industry embraces common sense. In a truly open world, you could go to CVS and pick ANY meter off the shelf to calibrate your CGM. That same meter would work with ANY app you download from the App Store or Google Play. Your CGM would instantly update your endo's EHR (electronic health records) system between visits. One day soon, there will be whole new array of diabetes devices and applications that we would have never imagined by companies that haven’t yet been conceived.
See where it's headed?
We are still waiting for the tipping point that make this happen -- where enough manufacturers use the standard that those who do not will have incompatible devices that won’t be part of the ecosystem, and thus uncompetitive.
The Roche Accu-Chek Connect is a breakthrough diabetes device for perhaps the dullest of reasons: a bit of embedded code that it allows it to speak a common language. But it’s where the rest of the diabetes device industry needs to get to.
Thanks for sharing your expert insight, Joe. We certainly look forward to reaping the benefits of all the work you're doing on this front!