Technophile

When a Glucometer meets a smartphone

Mala Bharghava | Updated on: May 09, 2018

Tracking sugar readings just got easier for diabetics with this little gadget and its accompanying app

As a diabetic, I’ve always wished there was some way my smartphone or watch could just track my blood sugar, perhaps sending out alerts when I’ve been naughty and eaten too much sweet stuff. We’re not there yet, but there are miniature glucometers that plug into the smartphone, making tracking sugar readings a little easier and a little more likely.

BeatO, an Indian company that’s trying to build a whole ecosystem of products for the country’s millions of diabetics, has just launched a tiny, neat-looking glucometer that plugs into the smartphone using the headphone jack. For those who have phones where the 3.5 mm jack has been banished, there’s always the little adaptor cable.

The BeatO glucometer has a tiny slot where the glucose measuring strip goes in. The kit you get when you buy this product includes a pen that has a lancet. So yes, you still have to prick yourself with a needle and you still have to use a strip. But the one step you don’t need to take is of manually recording the sugar reading. It isn’t that difficult a step, but diligence drops off when you come to terms with your condition and you get lazy about tracking it. With BeatO, the signal from the glucometer goes straight into the companion app on the phone. Your data is maintained for life, according to Gautam Chopra, one of the three founders of BeatO.

The BeatO glucometer is to be available through online channels like Flipkart and Amazon and also through the company’s own website for ₹1,200, which is about standard for a personal glucometer. The strips and lancets are also available online and again, follow standard pricing. The strips are specific to this glucometer, which won’t take in any others. The whole kit, which comes in a little case, is a nice size for travellers. As far as accuracy goes, the BeatO glucometer is subjected to the same tests all glucometers are. Typically, they do show a bit of variability and should in any case not be considered absolutely precise. Doctors do know this and make allowances for readings from home glucometers. I found that it varied from my existing glucometer by ten points, but there’s no way of knowing which of the two is closer to the true reading, unless you undergo formal testing at the same time. The battery on the glucometer lasts five years and if it runs out — which means you’ve used the device thoroughly — the CEO thinks you deserve a free replacement.

However the magic is not really in the glucometer, but in the services the app will enable. Many glucometers store glucose readings up to a point that can be transferred to a device. But this is usually not an easy process and it’s definitely more convenient to not have to transfer anything, but store data directly, making it easy to send it to your doctor.

The companion app is pretty well built and works with both iOS and Android. After a few particulars are entered, you’re good to go. You can use the BeatO glucometer or use another and enter the reading manually, taking away half the fun. BeatO products can be bought from the app, which also has a diabetes coach and quick consultation with a doctor for ₹100. At the time of launch, the product still needs to gather a panel of doctors, a process which the founder says is in progress in earnest. For the first three months, the services available through the app (such as coaching) are free. Thereafter, the user moves into a subscription mode of ₹900 for three-month periods.

The BeatO app will, of course, show the sugar reading trends in charts. You can set reminders for when to test your glucose level. It connects to the Google Fit app and also data from a Fitbit or Jawbone tracker. Undoubtedly, the list of trackers and devices it talks to still needs to be populated. Again, you can enter steps or amount of exercise done manually if your tracker isn’t listed.

The BeatO app otherwise has a nice number of blog entries offering information and advice about different aspects of diabetes. How often this is updated is not known at this early stage of using the glucometer and app.

Price: .1,200

Pros: Automatic saving and analysis of sugar readings, portable and nicely travel-ready, small and stylish looking

Cons: App still needs to include more services and experts, inclusion of other test results should be allowed so that a complete profile can be sent to a doctor, more fitness devices will need to be included

Published on May 09, 2018

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