hunting highs and lows

Take a widely-owned sensor with a reverse-engineered USB driver; hook it up to an Android phone with an OTG cable; install a custom app that pulls data from the sensor and pushes it to a free cloud-hosted Mongo database; fork a GitHub repo of a Node.js webapp, add your DB credentials, and deploy it onto Azure to parse and display all that data on the web. Perhaps even send it to a Pebble if you feel inclined.

Sounds fairly interesting, right? Small parts, loosely joined: a little bit of hardware-hacking, some Internet of Things, a splash of SaaS, a dollop of dataviz. The kind of thing that my smart techie friends get up to for love and/or money. Rough at the edges, perhaps a few too many joins for comfort, very much Not For Production, but very 2014.

Except what I’m describing is NightScout, an ongoing community project created and maintained by type 1 diabetics, their families and friends, with the aim of taking the data from Dexcom continuous glucose monitors and doing more with it than Dexcom’s crappy Windows-only software allows.

The CGM In The Cloud project’s been running for about a year: its hashtag motto is #WeAreNotWaiting. Not waiting for FDA approval, not waiting for companies to update their awful software, not waiting for fancier and better-funded projects like Tidepool to go beta. Not waiting for basic security for their data, either; not waiting for rewrites and refactoring to make it easier to deploy.

It’s simultaneously breathtaking and heartbreaking: for every T1D family that has managed to assemble the kit and liberated their CGM data, there’s one being gently talked through deploying from GitHub to Azure, presumably many that see the requirements and cost and decide that yes, they can wait a little longer, and more still that aren’t even aware of the project. It shouldn’t be this hard.