Ever have an issue forgetting your insulin at home, at school or in the office? Or do you worry that freezing or sweltering weather might kill your insulin?
Well, if a new diabetes device and app called Insulin Angel gets off the ground, then you might have a new tool to help navigate those concerns. A new Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign launches today, aiming to raise $55,000 to get this new solution fully developed and ready to market in the U.S.
No, it's not a cool pack or carry case, but rather a way to track the temperature, whereabouts and usage of your insulin, and alert you if the medication is at risk, or if you've left it behind.
Insulin Angel consists of a little 2" x 1" device that you hook onto your medication bag or carry case that contains a chip that sends info to a free smartphone app on Android or iPhone. The chip performs a handful of "smart" tasks, inlcuding monitoring current temperature and how upcoming weather conditions might impact that, tracking proximity, helping you keep track of how much medication is used, and providing remote notifications to a parent's or caregiver's smartphone if desired.
The designers say the app will include a medication database, in which you'll be able to choose your specific insulin, or other medication or test equipment, and the app will automatically set up safe storage and in-use temperature settings. They also promise it will be compatible with every modern smartphone that has Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
Note that this is mainly useful for people on injections, or using an insulin pen, whereas for pumpers it would only help you track and monitor any extra vials of insulin you may be carrying with you. The other downside is that it requires manual input into the app of your doses -- which is the only way the system can know whether you've missed one.
Still, it sounds pretty handy to me, as I've certainly forgotten my insulin or meter case at home occasionally, and after a recent international trip to the Dominican Republic, I've learned what it's like to truly worry about how high temps might screw with my insulin. We're not aware of anything like this product, which seems a very practical tool -- and not just another app promising to change the world by simply logging glucose results.
The technology is based on a development platform called relayr.io, which taps into the new Internet of Things (IoT) trend, that's all about embedding physical objects with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service for the user.
The way it works is that the app communicates with the sensor device, placed with your insulin, at regular intervals and warns the user by a sound and vibration notification every time it detects an approaching unsafe temperature, or if the device moves out of range -- more than 65 feet away from your phone. There's also an algorithm that will be able to detect whether the user is in their home or work environment, which will help folks locate meds when getting an alert about them being left behind.
The sensor battery lasts up to one year, and uses a standard coin cell battery that can be easily changed. The app is being programmed with a "clever battery-saving algorithm" so that the Bluetooth connection does not compromise the phone's battery life -- which is huge, of course!
Faces Behind the Tech
Insulin Angel has been created by a small team based in Germany and the U.K., all with a personal connection to diabetes, who really seem to know their stuff when it comes to mobile health tech. They are Amin Zayani, a 28-year-old type 1 who has a brother with T1D
and is an inventor and solar energy engineer by trade; D-Dad Steve
Miller, who co-founded a small business incubator and whose 10-year-old
son Johnny has T1D; and D-Dad Marc Nagel, who is an industrial designer
with an 11-year-old son, Linus, living with T1D.
Like many who venture into this area, they saw the current landscape of diabetes technology, and felt that a fundamental need wasn't being met. So they decided to fill that need themselves.
Their collective statement on Insulin Angel is this:
"We have personally experienced times when we didn’t really know the temperature guidelines of our medication; we certainly didn’t know if temperature limits were breached. We never knew the real temperature ... on hot days and cold days, which is even more problematic on very sunny holidays or when skiing. We didn’t even know the temperature when stored in a fridge, and we didn’t know whether to throw medication away if the fridge broke, as some of us have experienced.
"And even though some of us have lived with diabetes for years, and we're totally aware that walking around without our insulin or monitor is a major health threat, like anyone else we still have moments of forgetfulness and distraction. Our equipment somehow becomes just another everyday object – and unfortunately our medication cannot scream to us that it’s forgotten or it’s getting too hot or too cold."
They also have the medical backing of one Dr. Philip Unwin of Hart Surgery, Henley-on-Thames, in the U.K., who says:
"Reducing the anxiety of living with medical conditions is just as important for me in my job as the condition itself. And if this tool will notify the parents of children with diabetes, or caregivers of the elderly, when they are some distance from their loved ones, this will be such a breakthrough."
The Crowdfunding Campaign
With the campaign starting today, the Insulin Angel team hopes to raise a total of $55,000 in the next month. As with most of these fundraising campaigns online, you can contribute at many different levels -- from $5 that gets you a postcard about the project, to $40 to be a "pioneer" and help fine-tune the Insulin Angel app for either Android or iPhone, to $90 to get a dual-pack of devices once they're available, or up to $1,000 to $12,500 to "go big" and get many of the devices along with being part of the project from the ground floor.
By mid-year, the team hopes to have polished the app and have the device fully designed and developed. The hope is to have Insulin Angel submitted to the Apple and Google Play stores in July, and be able to fill customer orders by the end of summer.
We've seen how these crowdfunding campaigns can be effective, like when Europe-based Timesulin went this route and raised $35,000 last year to get its insulin-pen tracking device developed and submitted for FDA review.
If it weren't for that success story, we would've been very skeptical that Insulin Angel would be able to raise the kind of money it's looking for. But after all, Timesulin was a practical solution that helped only insulin pen users, and they pulled it off. So perhaps Insulin Angel will as well.
We wish you good luck with this new kind of high-tech guardian angel!