I joined Waag last January as designer. And somewhere at the top of my to-do list is continuing 'Measuring less to feel more', a project which aims at rethinking the care of Diabetes type II.
Tools are supposed to help us. And yet, as I discovered, that might not always be the case. Field research revealed that the instruments diabetic patients use to measure blood sugar levels add stress. Stress releases more sugar into the bloodstream, thus creating a vicious circle. There is apparently too much focus on numbers, instead of meaning. The new device we are working on is more intuitive, subtle and visual. Instead of displaying numerical values, the position of a LED reveals simply whether the blood sugar level is high, low or balanced.
The next steps
There is a range of steps to take. The first one is going on at the time I am typing those words. Together with back end developer Bas Withagen, we are currently developing a next generation prototype, which will be reading blood values via a test strip and that will have the possiblity to be connected to the internet for an exchange of the actual measurement data with GP's or other dedicated services.
Because we haven't found a manufacturer (yet) to collaborate with, we took the decision of building our glucosemeter almost from scratch. How? Like with a lot of electronic consumer products, reverse-engineering is often the way to start. "Of course, obtaining a development kit from a current manufacturer would make things easier. The challenge is to develop it by ourselves, implementing our own functions and improvements, and keeping in mind the current regulations. But that looks very doable", says Bas Withagen. Step by step, our glucose meter's development is progressing.
The test strips themselves might still be an issue, because there is a mix of electronics and chemistry involved. So we temporarily choose to use an existing type. For the short story, test strips are all specific to each device (this sounds like this old classic 'razor-razorblade business model'...). But with the coming launch of the Wetlab as neighbour of the Fablab, producing our own test strips might be a possibility! Once our next generation prototype will be ready, we would like to have a batch of them, in order to test them with a considerable number of users. Ideally the test will be done by a relevant institute (such as TNO), to evaluate its impact on diabetes self-management.