Tech Overlook

A personal view: How technology makes life easier for people with disabilities


Although this pump therapy is already regarded as an advanced form of therapy and long-term damage threatened by type 1 diabetes is reduced, it has one weakness: the individual devices work independently of each other. To date, there is no approved medical device that takes at least one of the many factors influencing blood sugar into account and, depending on this, regulates the administration of insulin. Imagine if you did not have a thermostat at home to regulate the room temperature, but instead had to measure the temperature with a thermometer and then operate the heating controller by hand to increase or decrease the temperature. This is mainly due to the fact that research on type 1 diabetes has largely been discontinued, since existing therapies are considered sufficient, and the treatment of type 2 diabetes, which is 20 times more common, is considered more profitable by pharmaceutical companies.

As a techie, I didn’t want to settle for a missing thermostat in my house. That’s why I took my therapy change in hand with a certain goal in mind: I became aware of a do-it-yourself community that is also not satisfied with the status quo of diabetes therapy. They are called The Loopers. Their motto is #WeAreNotWaiting – and I wanted to close the gap and also become a looper.

Loopers are people with type 1 diabetes who, with the help of self-written programs and self-built hardware, ensure that the thermostat works automatically – and at the same time also registers that a window is open or that there will soon be a change in the outside temperature. In total, an estimated 10,000 people loop worldwide – and help others to build their own system that currently outshines any commercial solution in terms of security and results.

With the help of this community, I have built my own system where the pump and the sensor can interact with each other using smartphones or micro PCs. For example, an Intel Edison uses the values of my sensor and my pump to predict a new course of blood sugar every 5 minutes for the next 2 hours and, depending on this, makes corrections with the help of insulin inputs or interruptions. The technology saves me the constant monitoring of my blood sugar level and I can be sure that my blood sugar is not responsible for a loss of consciousness – during sleep, driving or sports, which could have fatal consequences. Since I started looping, the fluctuations in my blood sugar level have almost levelled off at the level of people without diabetes.

The backend, which documents the sensor data and all meals and insulin inputs, runs on our cloud platform, Microsoft Azure. I control my progress and can visualize fluctuations in real-time just like the forecasts. This backend is also the basis for a system I built myself, which always shows me the status by lights in my home office and warns me of hypoglycemia.

Because building one’s own system is a challenge where no medical professionals can help due to a lack of clarity regarding liability, I am very grateful that there is the DIY Loop community that passes on its knowledge to other people with diabetes. For me, the use of technology means a lower health risk because the system protects me from difficult situations in the short and long term. The community lives from the fact that people pass on what they themselves have received. It is exactly in this sense that I participate in the underlying Open Source projects cgm-remote-monitor and OpenAPS. In addition, I blog in German on the subject and am also a type 1 diabetes activist on Twitter.



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