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Image via Garmin

For those in the diabetes community who’ve dreamed about seeing their in-the-moment blood sugar readings and trend data right on their smartwatch or bike computer while exercising, Dexcom and Garmin have a new development that’s right up your alley.

The leading continuous glucose monitor (CGM) maker and leading smart wearables company Garmin announced Oct. 13 the development of what’s known as Garmin’s Dexcom Connect IQ, a way for Garmin devices and the Dexcom G6 CGM to talk with each other so that current glucose data and trends display on Garmin wearables.

They even made a polished 74-second commercial highlighting the development, featuring some high-profile celeb athletes who live with diabetes themselves.

You still need a Bluetooth and data-connected smartphone as the go-between, so this is not the seamless direct-to-watch capability that many in the diabetes community had been waiting on. (Dexcom says that’s still in the works and could be available as soon as 2022.)

But it’s an exciting step forward for athletes, professional cyclists and anyone who wants to be able to see their diabetes data with a quick glance at their wrist or mobile device while working out.

To date, this hadn’t been possible without a do-it-yourself workaround, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2021 gave the green light for this type of partnership to occur. It opens the door for other companies to use Dexcom’s real-time software in creating apps or other wearable options for data display as well.

“What a better tool to have at your fingertips than something like these Garmin apps we’ve created using the real-time API from Dexcom, to get those instant values and trends,” said Nate Ahuna, Garmin’s associate director of strategic partnerships and global business development. “This is a big step in our journey with Dexcom.”

In many ways, this is akin to when Dexcom CGM data was first allowed to be displayed on Apple Watches. Except in this instance, it’s the first time another company outside of Dexcom has used the CGM-maker’s real-time software to develop and integrate its glucose data into their own apps and devices.

Garmin originally launched its Connect IQ apps several years ago, but now adds two new diabetes-specific apps that integrate with Dexcom G6 data. Both apps can be downloaded for free in the company’s Connect IQ store, only for the United States at this time:

At a glance watch widget: can be displayed on a compatible Garmin smartwatch, so you can view real-time glucose levels as well as a trend arrow and a 3-hour history CGM line.

Data field: for use during activities, to see glucose data on a compatible Garmin smartwatch or bike computer. It allows you to see glucose levels as well as trend direction along with other performance metrics that you’re tracking during those activities.

At the time of the Oct. 13, 2021, launch, there were 15 Garmin devices compatible with this new Dexcom Connect IQ integration:

  • Fenix 6S Pro and Sapphire
  • Fenix 6 Pro and Sapphire
  • Fenix 6X Pro and Sapphire
  • Fenix 6 Solar series
  • Vivoactive 4 series
  • MARQ series
  • Venu Sq Music and Venu 2 series
  • Forerunner 245 Music
  • Forerunner 745
  • Forerunner 945/LTE
  • Quatix 6 series
  • Tactix Delta series
  • Edge 530 (only compatible with the Dexcom data field)
  • Edge 830 (only compatible with the Dexcom data field)
  • Edge 1030/Plus (only compatible with the Dexcom data field)

One benefit of this — aside from viewing data on the spot during exercise — is being able to later go back and review your CGM data along with activity data, in order to see how your glucose levels were impacted by a particular exercise event like a run or bike ride. That’s hugely beneficial in seeing the effect of exercise on our blood sugars.

Even though you can get real-time Dexcom G6 data on these Garmin devices and watch the trends, Garmin intentionally does not include any of its own alerts or alarms for when glucose levels go too low or high.

“We didn’t want to make it more of a medical device, with the regulatory restrictions that go with that,” Ahuna told DiabetesMine. “So there are no alerts and notifications directly as a part of this, as a result of that.”

However, the Garmin technology does still communicate with other mobile apps and data platforms while the Connect IQ widget is being used. That means notifications sent to the Garmin device from another app, such as the Dexcom G6 mobile app’s high or low glucose alerts, will still be active.

Stephanie Schultz, a senior media relations specialist for fitness at Garmin, walked DiabetesMine through that process during a phone call. She explained that while using the newest Connect IQ app, she was still able to get Dexcom alerts as notifications on her Garmin watch.

This also does not include any functionality for Dexcom Followers, or those who are not wearing the Dexcom G6 themselves but are remotely monitoring a child or other person’s CGM data through the Dexcom mobile app. While Garmin and Dexcom are both aware that is of interest for many in the D-Community, it is not yet possible.

While Garmin is the first to make this happen, Dexcom is also working with other partners to enable CGM data displays on further devices. Those will likely include Teladoc Health’s Livongo, as well as others like Fitbit and well-known brands in the wearable tech universe.

All of this sprung from Dexcom’s Web API program announced in 2017, that opened up its internal software for interested developers to use for future data innovations.

“The addition of Garmin wearables and cycling computers to the Dexcom CGM ecosystem is an exciting advancement for Dexcom users, who are now able to easily view and monitor their glucose levels from their favorite Garmin device,” Dexcom’s chief technology officer Jake Leach said in a statement. “Garmin is our first partner to connect to Dexcom G6 through our new real-time API — showcasing the value of integrated CGM and further solidifying Dexcom G6 as the most powerful and connected CGM in the world.”

In New York, longtime type 1 Jeff Mather says he’s excited to have quick, easy-to-view Dexcom data right on his Garmin Edge 530 attached to his bike handlebars.

“It will definitely be a benefit,” he said. “When I rode to work and back yesterday, I was able to see my blood glucose change every 5 minutes just by glancing down, instead of having to fish out my pump in traffic and hope that I could read it in the bright sunlight while wearing sunglasses.”

Mather says his Garmin smartwatch isn’t yet compatible with the particular Connect IQ app sharing Dexcom data, so he may not use it while running, as he doesn’t prefer to carry his iPhone along during runs. He does recognize that DIY options have been possible, but he just doesn’t have the time nor energy to devote to a homemade workaround for his Dexcom CGM data to synch with his Garmin devices that way.

“I guess I still have some hesitation injecting unregulated or unofficial third-party technology into my diabetes care,” he said.

Some certainly describe this development as a “game-changer,” while others see it more as much ado about nothing, given the need to still have a connected smartphone as the go-between.

The biggest win overall here is that it paves the way for easy, commercially available real-time data integration between Dexcom and other wearables — without the need for complicated homemade workarounds. Most people are intimidated by the work that goes into those diabetes DIY hacks and are waiting for more “official” products that will be backed by established companies.

Kudos to Dexcom and Garmin for leading us there.