Diabetes Technologies on the Horizon

Technology — love it or hate it, it’s certainly made at least most of our lives easier. Smartphones and iPads let us stay connected wherever we go. Apps let us track our food intake and our exercise and keep us on schedule with their calendars and reminders. And social media helps us find and stay in touch with long-lost friends and allows us to share pictures of our pets, our food, or whatever we feel like sharing at any given moment.

Things are booming in the realm of diabetes self-management technology, too. The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas recently wrapped up, with 160,000 attendees, 3,800 exhibitors, and nearly 2.5 million square feet of exhibitor space. This show features up-and-coming technologies from many consumer segments, ranging from drones to elder care to toilets to health care. Here are some of the diabetes-related technologies that we can look forward to in the (hopefully) very near future.


Medtronic and IBM Watson Health. You may recall the Jeopardy episodes featuring IBM’s Watson as a contestant. Well, Watson is branching out and teaming up with Medtronic, a medical device company that manufactures, among many things, insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs). These two super companies are teaming up to develop an app that will compile information from pumps and CGMs, such as insulin delivery, glucose levels, and carb intake, to provide insights and guidance to the user. The app may also integrate data from other info sources, too, like fitness trackers, scales, and even the weather. The purpose is to make all of this data useful, instead of creating information overload. Stay tuned for a possible launch of the app this summer.

AT&T and YOFiMeter. Sure, AT&T is in the television, cell phone, tablet and Internet business — why not health care, as well? AT&T has teamed up with YOFiMeter, a manufacturer of a “smart” meter that provides a high level of accuracy, as well as other products that are aimed at “making diabetic living easier.” Early this year, these two companies will be collaborating on a “connected” glucose meter that will let people with diabetes wirelessly transmit blood sugar readings, other biometric data, and voice notes to providers over AT&T’s secure network. The YOFiMeter, by the way, consists of two cassettes that house 20 test strips and 20 lancets, along with buttons that activate the system, launch the lancet, and then dispose of the used strip. This system allows you to check your blood sugar quickly and more discreetly compared to other meters, and does away with having to tote around your meter plus strips plus lancets. There are some other cool features to this meter, as well. For more info on YOFiMeter, visit http://www.yofimeter.com/yofiAdvantage.html.

Lumee. Continuous glucose monitoring has become much more mainstream for people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. CGMs allow you to see what your glucose levels are every few minutes over the course of the day and night, unlike blood glucose meters that give you a single reading at a given point in time. CGM technology enables you to fine-tune your diabetes treatment plan relative to insulin and medication dosing, carb intake, and physical activity. It also “warns” you of impending hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) so that you can take steps to head them off. The concept of sensors has so much more to offer when it comes to health management, however. A startup company called Profusa is developing a universal sensor called Lumee that will monitor glucose levels along with oxygen levels, heart rate, and more. A sensor like this will allow people with other chronic diseases, such as COPD or peripheral arterial disease, better manage their conditions. And it can play a role in wellness, too. Lumee is still in clinical trials, so there’s no expected launch date at this time. But this sensor is heralding the wave of sensing technology.

Quell. If you suffer from neuropathy, arthritis, or almost any type of chronic pain, you may want to check out this second-generation device from NeuroMetrix. Quell is a band that you wrap around your leg, just below your knee. Using “100% drug free OptiTherapy™ technology,” this device uses pulses to stimulate your nerves and block pain signals. Quell is supposedly able to ease pain within 15 minutes, helping you carry out your daily activities and improving sleep quality, as well. The device is connected to (of course) a smartphone app. The device itself costs $249, plus $90 for a 3-month supply of electrodes. At this time, it’s unlikely that insurance companies will cover the cost of this; however, Quell’s website suggests that you may be able to apply the cost to a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), if you have one. For more info, visit www.quellrelief.com.

DietSensor. Here’s a technology that I can identify with (being a dietitian!). Part of the struggle people have is knowing what’s in the food they eat in terms of calories, carbs, fat, etc. And the other part of that struggle is keeping track and logging what they eat: It’s time consuming and often tedious. Now comes DietSensor, which lets you scan your foods with a scanning device that’s connected to a smartphone app. The scanner, which is fairly small, takes a photo of your food and transmits it to the app to gauge the portion. The DietSensor, in turn, provides the nutritional value of that food via your smartphone in the form of “real-time coaching” that helps you balance your diet and track your goals. There are still a few kinks to be worked out; for example, the scanner can scan simple foods, like a slice of bread, but not combination foods, such as a bowl of cereal. But hopefully these issues will be resolved. The system isn’t cheap — about $250 for the sensor plus a monthly $10 subscription (all subject to change). DietSensor will hopefully be available this fall. To learn more, visit www.dietsensor.com.

Navigating the crowds and overwhelming options at the grocery store can be difficult, especially if you have diabetes. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune back in for 11 tips on food shopping with diabetes from a registered dietitian!