Insulin Angel: IoT + Diabetics = True
Having a true understanding of the challenges involved in living with medical conditions such as diabetes, the team behind Insulin Angel noticed there were still unresolved issues regarding the practicalities in medication. Both major and minor medical issues can prove disruptive and have considerable consequences in the well-being of people living with the disease. Through their app, Insulin Angel helps the individual to monitor the temperature and proximity of their medications – by connecting it to a small sensor device. The app notifies the user before the medication reaches a critical temperature, or is a certain distance away from the owner.
EntrepreneurCountry Global met up with Amin Zayani, one of the influential forces within Insulin Angel – but also a Type 1 diabetic, who pioneered the search for a solution to keeping his insulin safe. We discussed Insulin Angel, their business and Amin's thoughts on the future.
Tell me a bit about your background and how the idea for Insulin Angel came about?
I myself suffer from type 1 diabetes; I depend on a medication called insulin to stay alive. I started experimenting to make Insulin Angel (at the time it didn't even have a name) out of frustration. Sometimes my blood sugar would swing up and down mysteriously, and I suspected that my insulin lost its effectiveness. This happens when it gets too hot or too cold, but there is no way to find out. The problem was uncertainty about my medication, and the solution was pretty clear in my head.
I decided to build a small device that sits with my insulin and warns me every time the temperature approaches a dangerous level. Then after my partners Steve and Marc joined the team we developed the product further to also warn when the medication, or medical testing device is lost or forgotten, and we added a remote notification feature when the users are children and old people who need assistance, so that the same alert is delivered on the parents/carer phone.
Can you briefly explain what Insulin Angel does?
Insulin Angel is a temperature and proximity-tracking device that connects to an app on your smartphone. The app notifies you before your medication reaches a dangerous temperature, if dangerous temperature was exceeded in your absence, and also when you lose or leave your essential medical kit behind.
Insulin Angel tracks your medication's temperature to help you to keep it safe. It also prevents you from losing or forgetting your vital medical supplies with app notifications and proximity sensors.
What value does Insulin Angel, in the broadest sense, provide its clients?
The device's smart features help keep medication at its recommended temperature and reduce missed doses and forgotten equipment, which can add to the stresses of those living with diabetes and other medical conditions, and can in extreme cases prove fatal.
By having better control and understanding of the medication's storage conditions the amount of wasted insulin will be reduced and the cost of wasted insulin will be saved by both patients and health organizations.
What role has technology played in the enabling of such a system?
We started working on the idea about two years ago but the technology was not there yet. All of our first stage prototypes have been too bulky, heavy and power-hungry. Most importantly they lacked the capability to connect to smartphones. It was not until Bluetooth Low Energy came out and the technology was mature enough that we could finally make it light and power efficient enough to make it usable. Most importantly, the wireless connectivity meant that the smartphone could be used as the user interface, and as a gateway to connect to other users.
How will machine-to-machine services enable individuals in the future?
It's very interesting to see everyone talking about the "Internet of Things" and how it will change our lives forever. The truth is that there is a lot of hype about it. Our project gets so much attention from the big players because they are craving useful applications, not connected ovens and toasters. In fact we've been featured in Cisco Connect's opening keynote in Berlin last November as a useful IoT product. The technology is finally there, but there is a significant need for really useful products and services.
I personally believe that the most impact will be in automating boring tasks by delegating them to machines, and to make living with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, Parkinson, blindness much easier.
Why is innovation important, and how do you actively work to nurture it?
Innovation happens when you connect the dots in a creative way, say when you live with a problem and you have the skills or knowledge to solve it. Or when you are an expert in more than one field. In any case it starts when you challenge the status quo and are curious. Insulin Angel's first device is the first in a family of products and services we are planning to make to help people with diabetes and other medical conditions with managing the challenges they face.
We have a unique approach as we are the patients and we are familiar with these challenges, but we are also close to many patients' communities, and digital healthcare players. And we are a small team, which makes us agile and quick, unlike big pharmaceutical companies that tend to be too big and structured to bring innovative solutions fast enough.
What attracted you to CODE_n ?
CODE_N is an amazing community. It's the best-organised hall in all of CeBIT, and it's also access to a worldwide network of innovators and potential strategic partners. Being a finalist at CODE_N is also great validation and a very good reference for us, all the other finalists are great start-ups and we're proud to be counted among the best.
How was the experience for you?
Exhausting, but totally worth it! We had excellent conversations with major players in our industry and a lot of valuable feedback from knowledgeable experts in marketing, IT, Venture Capital. Actually we may have a very exciting news very soon as a result of a lead we got here at CODE_N, so keep your fingers crossed for us!