August 21, 2007

Swimming in the Data Stream Looking for the UN.

or Becoming a Commie Pinko
Type 1 isn’t all about the numbers. It is about kids living their lives. That said there are one hell of a lot of numbers. We gotta deal with the numbers, so we can love the kids as kids. Nobody need love the numbers.

There are a ton of little electronic machines that produce billions and billions of numbers (and about as many strips on the floor.) At times it seems we are floundering in a sea of data points (and strips on the floor.) Unfortunately each machine speaks its own language. What we need is the UN. United Numbers.

Brenard responded to my post ...and I would like a side order of Holy Grail while I am at it too
One of the key parts to this (and the thing I've been preaching about for a while) is a unified data standard for diabetes data. Something that all device makers (pumps, meters, CGMS) follow. That would make it possible to actually take data from several devices and combine it into a single package for graphing and analysis.

Brenard is brilliant. Bernard for President. (The heck with that constitutional provision about natural born citizen as long as he doesn't change us to left side of the road driving.)

Everyone at FFL with any kind of a {in my best Monty Python imitation} ‘Machine that goes PING’ was touting some kind of undefined wireless connectivity to some tool that alerts someone, most likely the doctor, (who is way too busy with patients in the office to be taking PINGs from machines that go PING.) I call this the machine that listens to the machine that goes PING and tells someone else.
In one of these sessions we got to talking about the school setting. One guy said there were three, count'm THREE, pumpers in his daughter’s one classroom. Wow!

So the big idea of the focus group was this new undefined machine that listens to the machine that goes PING and tells someone else could alerts the nurse if one of the three kids in the class was trending south.

How techie cool would that be?

But wait! What if each kid is wearing a different pump and CGM?

Does the school have to buy three different machines that listens to the machine that goes PING and tells someone else? One that listens in each of the three different languages, that each of the different machines that all go PING speak?

Or do three different insurance companies have to pony up (fat chance.)

Sounds a wee bit inefficient to me. It is like every machine is it own nation.

Imagine if we could get all these different Nations United or at least talking. We need the UN!

If all the machines that go PING spoke the same language then one machine in the classroom could listen to any manufacturers’ device and call the school nurse.

Just think, all the manufacturers could all reduce the cost of R&D spent on the machine that listens to the Machine that goes PING if they didn’t each have to invent a new language in the process. Hey guys in expensive suits! Lower expenses means more profits and bigger bonuses for the guys in expensive suits or they could then invest that saved R&D money into better design, clearer user interfaces and compete on usability! Yeah I think it would go to bonuses too.

Anyway - Bernard for President of the UN!

I look at it like this, there are a standards for a USB port, bluetooth, driving on the right side of the road. Well OK there is the whole UK exception for the last one but you get my point ...well Bernard may not.

I know that some companies want to invent the wheel, patent it and keep others from rolling. Who gets hurt in this deal they say - we invent the spoked wheel, we should have exclusive rights to it.

I’ll tell ya who get hurt – kids - maybe two of the three kids in the classroom. It is the kids’ data transmitted through We the People’s spectrum. There is an interest here that takes precedence.
OK call me a communist - I want to see a Reaganesque rising tide that lifts all boats.

I did promise to write a number of medical companies a letter about this when I was bending their corporate ears at FFL.

Think they will like this?

Maybe I should write my congresswoman too. I think I'll skip the commie pinko part in her letter and maybe the Regan bit. She's a D.


  1. Hey Bennet,

    You should point people to my recent post at that discusses the last 6 years of development of a device that goes PING that's in the field helping to keep kids safe at school - it's a wireless research device called a GlucoMON. While it currently supports only one meter, the GlucoMON can be built to support any device including other meters and other pump, cgms, etc...

    Also, our research and others show that unless you use a device to automate the PING action, none of that listenting or sending will occurr on a regular basis. It has to be automated and that means a device and that means a large expense to build, test, certify and operate.

    Let's stop talking about the future and get behind efforts that are actually in the field already delivering benefits of exactly what you are describing here.

    More info can be found at

  2. Bennet

    I don't know how I missed this earlier. I'd just like to say thank you for your votes. :-)

    This complete lack of a data standard is nothing less than idiotic. It reminds me so much of the modem makers in years gone by. "We can't release our proprietary protocol, it would be bad for business." Yet look how that market exploded once they all worked together.

    I know in the case of diabetes devices, this isn't exactly the same. But we'd all benefit in ways I don't even understand if we could take the data from pumps and meters and mash it up to produce useful and usable results.

  3. While I hate to bring regulatory agencies in here (I believe they are mostly bureaucratic nonsense), perhaps what is needed is for said agencies (e.g. FDA) to require a specific data communications standard as necessary for device approval. This standard would work for all wireless health devices: glucometers, insulin pumps, cgms, body-weight scales, sphygmomanometers, finger blood oxygen meters, home A1c/A1g/cholesterol tests, etc.
    That said, it IS possible for the devices to require, for security, registration to a unique "translator device" for each user (consider the way you set up your notebook to pair to your bluetooth smartphone, or vice-versa) to prevent confusion between multiple devices or multiple users, and if multiple "translators" are needed for the same user, either on-device storage or a cloud-based (or key-based) program for data synchronization between them.