"There's an app for that..."
When it comes to diabetes, the correct response to the above cliché is, "No kidding." There's no shortage of apps these days claiming to make life easier for PWDs (people with diabetes).
Add two more to that ever-growing list — coincidentally both being developed by young teams in Slovenia, in South Central Europe.
Say hello to Easycarb, which bills itself as "the first complete, all-in-one carbohydrate tracking solution that even includes a Bluetooth-enabled food scale to enable insulin dosing recommendations based on what you're eating."
And meet InRange, an app that claims to offer the easiest and most accurate insulin dosing calculator ever.
Despite our skepticism about many apps, we're always pleased to see people putting their creative energies into new D-tools and tech. So let's get right to it, diving into a mini-Q&A with creators behind each of these two newest apps.
EasyCarb App (Plus Portable Scale)
This app's being developed by brothers Luka and Klemen Zupancic, two pretty smart guys specializing in biomedicine and regenerative medicine. Neither have diabetes themselves, but say they were inspired by friends living with T1D. They just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo on Sept. 30 to raise money for their app development and launch.
They tell us Easycarb is "the first complete carbohydrate tracker for diabetics." It consists of an app for smart devices combined with a dedicated portable Bluetooth scale for food weighing, which together automatically calculate the exact amount of carbohydrates in a given meal. The user places their desired food article on the Bluetooth scale, which sends the data to the Easycarb app on the smart device. When the same food article is then selected on the app, it instantly calculates the exact carbohydrate values via an integrated comprehensive food database and automatically logs all activities, which can be later exported as a professional PDF report for physicians or caregivers. The app also provides insulin dosage recommendations based on the patient's insulin sensitivity profile, along with other features such as reminders for blood glucose measurements and motivational challenges to keep the process engaging.
Wow, this system almost sounds like the magic "Carbonator" our Diabetes Community has dreamed of for so long. Here's what else the EasyCarb bros tell us:
DM) World's first...? Is that an accurate claim? How is this different from other carb-tracking apps?
EC) The inspiration behind our project originated from testimonials of friends living with diabetes, quoting “lack of a complete carb-tracking solution” as one of the main issues when it comes to managing the disease.
Easycarb is the first complete, all-in-one carbohydrate tracking solution, which distinguishes itself from existing products by automation of every step in the process at the highest level. While others focus mainly on logging manually obtained data about carbs in meals or simply serving as a reference point for determining the amount of carbs in meals, Easycarb aims to revolutionize and modernize the process of performing these measurements in the first place, in addition to serving as logger and a motivational and educational tool.
The units in the app will be made adjustable and customizable, depending on the geographic locations of the users.
It comes with a portable scale, too?
Yes, it is the first app that will offer a fully portable dedicated Bluetooth scale, to provide the users with precise information about carbohydrate content on-the-go or in the comfort of their home.
What's the overall system cost, including the scale?
The complete Easycarb package includes the app and dedicated bluetooth scale. The final retail cost of the product is currently estimated at $99 USD. In our crowdfunding campaign, we are offering the same package at a discounted price, ranging from $49 to $75. The Easycarb app, which can serve as a stand-alone tool for tracking carbs even without the scale (albeit less efficient and accurate), will be made available on all platforms completely free-of-charge and ad-free and will stay that way forever.
How does the scale account for the weight of a bowl or dish the food is contained in?
The Easycarb scale come equipped with a TARE feature (or zero-reset) accessible through the app, which subtracts the weight of a given bowl/plate, similar to standard kitchen scales. The app will carefully guide the user, to make sure all weighing is performed properly. The app will also feature an option to save the weight of your favorite dishes, cups or bowls, thus eliminating the need for an additional weighing step.
Can you also take pictures of your food?
The app will feature the option of importing your own customized meals and food into the database, along with taking and saving photos of them for easy access.
Can you add different foods or carbs into the database?
Yes. The database will be customizable and will allow importing personalized entries. Since the application will feature a cloud-based backup system, the integrated food database will also grow as the user base grows.
How might this benefit those who eat low-carb?
Easycarb will be very useful when it comes to maintaining or transitioning to a low-carb diet, where tracking your daily carb intake values are key. As it features a powerful engine for logging meals, insulin doses and blood sugar levels, users will be able to monitor the effect that such diets have. Furthermore, the app´s integrated food database will also display fiber, which are in fact present in many low-carb dishes and are frequently not regarded as carbs, even though they do have an effect on blood sugar levels.
How do you see all of your data from the app? Via an online portal?
The app will generate a comprehensive compilation of all logged activities (meals, insulin injections, blood glucose measurements, notes, etc.), which will be stored on the user´s device as well as on the cloud for backup. The comprehensible log will be readily accessible via the app or a PC, and will be available for export as a formatted PDF report for physicians and caregivers.
Can you share this data with your physician?
Yes. We realize the importance of routine check-ups with physicians and the role that accurate presentation of the person´s activities and measurements plays in that process. That’s why Easycarb will feature a PDF report exporter, which will export the individual log entries in the form of a clear-structured and comprehensible report for physicians or caregivers to review.
Will this connect with other apps and/or diabetes devices to bring the data together?
Our team´s ultimate mission is to provide diabetics with a product that will unite all the aspects of effective management of the diseases in a single, comprehensive and easy-to-use solution. In order to achieve that, we are more than open to partnering up with other developers of apps and medical devices (eg. glucose meters) to further extend our product´s functionality. We are already discussing some cooperation possibilities regarding integration of other sensing equipment in the future.
As brothers, what is your connection to diabetes again? Does it run in your family?
Diabetes does run in our family, although we were never affected by it personally. As medical researchers, we have been frequently involved with diabetes and diabetics. Luka also volunteered in diabetic clinics and participated in various diabetes self-management workshops and courses. Although our immediate team members do not have diabetes, we have a supporting group of more than a dozen diabetics, who are helping us develop our product every step of the way.
Tell us about the crowdfunding campaign you’ve launched on Indiegogo…
Since the drive of our inspiration and innovation were always our friends and supporters who live with diabetes, we decided to offer the stand-alone Easycarb app completely free-of-charge, so anyone can use it, regardless of their socioeconomic status. This is why we decided to crowdfund our project, where the goal is set at $90,000, which is the minimum requirement to make a top-quality product like the one we strive towards. The campaign closes on October 30th.
Assuming you get the needed funding, when would the product become available?
We expect Easycarb to be available for mass production and distribution in late April 2016.
OK, wow. There's one app that certainly sounds handy. And now for another...
This app's being developed by a team led by Gregor Carr, a so-called "Type Awesome" whose wife has type 1 diabetes. The InRange team launched its app during the recent European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) conference on Sept. 15, and is also considering a crowdfunding campaign.
Carr tells us that at the time they started building InRange, there were not many apps available for diabetics and those which were available were far from perfect. They set out to create "the most easy-to-use mobile app that calculates recommended insulin bolus and tracks your glucose values and carbohydrates." It's been a long road building it, but they now proudly say they're finished.
All users have to do to get a recommended insulin bolus is manually enter a blood glucose level and select what they plan to eat. The app then calculates the number of carbohydrates in the meal and calculates recommended insulin bolus. It also takes into the account the user's insulin on board. And of course it functions as an electronic logbook that lets users share records with their doctor.
DM) What’s the real difference here between InRange and other diabetes apps that do similar things?
We focused on the insulin bolus calculator and not on a logbook like the other apps. We believe that by using our calculator you will stay more in control of your blood glucose and spend a less time doing it. The logbook is more like a consequence -- it gets filled automatically if you use our calculator.
When we do presentations of the app to the diabetics, we take someone from the audience and challenge them to calculate a bolus based on their preferences. Until now, no one calculated the bolus accurately. They always come up with the wrong result. And if your bolus is not calculated correctly then you're not headed into the right direction. InRange provides a very accurate result based on the parameters of your current BG reading and carb intake. We believe it's a new form of measurement -- quick and easy and super accurate.
Also, users don't have to register to use our app; they have an option to sign in but this is not mandatory. Sign in is recommended because you won't lose your data in case you lose your phone or buy a new one.
Does this have ability to integrate other diabetes data, or data from other apps?
Currently we've integrated the app with the world's smallest glucose meter, called 2in1 Smart, which is only available in Europe right now. Together, these products make a powerful, compact system for people with diabetes.
Of course you can still use the app without the 2in1 Smart glucose meter. But with their help in Europe, InRange has set up something called the Blue Project Foundation, in which we'll receive 1 cent for every reading taken with the 2in1 Smart meter, and the funds will be donated to selected T1D research projects.
Nice! So what’s your connection to this illness again?
InRange was co-founded with two of my best friends, Miha and Klemen (not related to the Easycarb co-founder by the same name). The main reason it happened was my better half Mateja, who's had T1D since the age of 18. When we met I started to realize that managing diabetes is not easy at all! Its annoying, leaves you without vacation, you're constantly overwhelmed, etc. If you are T1D you know what I'm talking about.
We made a high-quality product and that's possible only with interdisciplinary input of design, technical and diabetes expertise. Before InRange, we were all working in different tech companies or startups. But as a team today, InRange is our first app.
Will it available for both iPhone and Android?
Yes, InRange is available for iOS and Android smart phones. It's completely free and it always be! The app is currently available in the EU only, where we have obtained the necessary medical device/quality certificates, 93/42EEC and ISO 13485. In the U.S. it takes a little longer for an app to get approved as medical device. We are doing our best to file the application with FDA this year and bring InRange to the U.S. market in 2016.
Diabetes Apps, Galore
As noted, we're always happy to see more creativity being devoted to new diabetes tools.
But honestly, we're moving past the saturation point in mobile apps for diabetes; consumer reports show that people rarely keep using them after an initial try. There are some exceptions, obviously, but by and large diabetes apps don't make the grade, because they don't really ease the burden of life with this burdensome condition.
We're especially wary of those making claims such as "re-inventing diabetes management," or "best ever" and "now it's finally easy" thanks to this particular diabetes app.
Will Easycarb and InRange make it to the U.S., and really make an impact on how we manage our diabetes on a daily basis? That remains to be seen, of course.