Why I welcome the WATCH
As a Type 1 diabetic
On Tuesday, Apple unveiled its brand new product, the WATCH. A lot of people have been discussing the value of such a device in your everyday life. Personally, as a Type 1 Diabetic, I welcome the WATCH with emotion, and here is why.
For years diabetics have been using a very simple but painful technique to test their sugar levels. Through finger pricking, you extract a sample of blood and test your level with a simple glucometer (glucose testing device) that you can find at any pharmacy. If your sugar is too high (hyperglycemia), you inject yourself insulin, to bring the levels down. If you are too low (hypoglycemia), you go eat a fruit or drink a juice to raise the sugar up a bit.
A constant effort, that requires a lot of planning and rigor.
The introduction of the glucometer was already a big milestone in controlling your sugar levels and allows millions of diabetics to live a healthy life. But there are still a few issues with this.
First, pricking your finger hurts, and what you want is a continuous tracking of your sugar levels, so that you don’t miss a period of time where your glucose was way too high or too low. Because pricking your finger is a painful process, there is no way you will test yourself every 5 minutes. A few years ago, Dexcom changed the game with their continuous glucometers. A device that I am wearing today at all times.
Dexcom G4 CGM
Thanks to the Dexcom tracker, you place a sensor under your skin that is attached to the transmitter you see on the picture on the left, and the data is sent automatically to the tracker.
Every 5 minutes, the device will read your sugar level, with the goal to stay between the red and the yellow lines. That’s really the window you want to be in. This is what we call ‘tight control’, and the tighter the better for your health.
If your sugar goes too low, because you injected too much insulin (a classic issue diabetic people have to deal with), it will vibrate and give you a heads up to eat something to bring your sugar level up a bit, but not too much. The little arrow next to the number gives you a prediction and tells you where you are heading. Am I stable, am I going down? An immensly useful feature when you are about to go for a run or take the freeway with the kids.
So maybe you see where I am going with this.
Reading numbers from this tracker is just unnatural, people wonder what the device is, and it is a pain to carry this additional “thing” in your pocket. Well, Dexcom will be introducing soon an iPhone application that will completely replace the physical device. This means that my iPhone will become soon my glucometer. That is already huge for me.
Now, if my sugar data is on my phone, a simple WATCH app could read the data from it and display that beautifully on my wrist.
Today, every time I am working out, to make sure I don’t fall into hypoglycemia, I need to pause and check my levels on the device that is on my shelf. With a watch, I can just glance at my wrist and feel safe.
Some people have hacked some experiments with the Pebble watch, but the ecosystem is not as developed and the integration is not as tight as what Apple will probably provide. Last but not least, experience matters. Instead of having a sin curve or numbers and 2 colors, why not make this even more natural, beautiful and transparent?
If I am doing great and my glucose level is in the range, I get a beautiful blue jellyfish. If my sugar is going down and I need to eat something, I get a red one. This intimate data is no longer exposed crudely but elegantly.
It almost makes me forget about the disease.
Of course, diabetes is just one of the disease that a watch could help handle every day in a more natural and transparent way.
As a person living with a disease, all I want is to live the same life as anyone else being healthy. And a big part of it is about making it simpler and ultimately transparent.