Being diabetic is not only an illness, it can also be a real social impediment, as diabetics have to keep their insulin levels in check throughout the day and test themselves with cumbersome devices. In the past couple of years NoCamels has covered many Israeli innovations in the field of diabetes and the latest one, called Dario, may be one of the best so far.
Dario is a Diabetes Management System that incorporates an integrated smartphone-based glucometer, lancing device, a strips cartridge, a smartphone application and a full suite of cloud based diabetes management services. This device has all the integrated facilities to measure the glucose in the blood. Users can then read their glucose levels on their smartphone’s screen by connecting their Dario to it through the audio jack.
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Michael Aviad, a type 1 diabetic who co-founded of ASweetLife, wrote of Dario that it has the diabetic community “riveted”.
From zero to Dario: a cozy glucose reading
Dario is the first product launched by a young startup called LabStyle Innovations. This American enterprise with Israeli subsidiaries, formed in 2011, is spearheaded by “serial entrepreneur” Dr. Oren Fuerst, CEO of LabStyle Innovations.
Developed in Israel and assembled in the US, Dario is a warm-colored gadget which includes much more than a regular glucometer: a “lancing device” to provoking a small blood flow (normally a tiny pin) and a dispensing cartridge which holds up to 25 test strips (thin papers which read the glucose concentration in blood thanks to an enzyme they carry on them). It connects to your smartphone via the audio jack and, once you introduce the test strip into it, the phone displays your results.
Raised on private capital and nurtured on approximate $7 million of external capital after going corporate, LabStyle Innovations’ device seems to have clicked correctly into the market. Dr. Fuerst explains that mostly all glucometers have done throughout time is “shrink in size”, but they remain “non-aesthetically pleasing” and many still, after the analysis, “lose the data, so it’s hard to keep track of your results or share them with doctor.” He admits there have been attempts to connect glucometers to smartphones in the past, “but they didn’t really work, just looked really awkward.”
Monitor, record and share your data
Michael Aviad, in his report for ASweetLife, wrote: “The first thing that catches the eye when you [see Dario] is its size. The entire device (…) is the size of a cigarette lighter. But as cool as the device looks (it’s really cool) there are many other features which the creators of Dario are proud of.”
Oren Fuerst adds: “It has data management and analysis tools, so if you want to have a treat, your database will provide all the information you need. It also includes an internal network through cloud-based services.” Dario’s network, accessible by phone or computer, allows users to share their results with their clinicians, parents, caregivers, even their dietitian. Another point Michael Aviad picked up: “There’s no battery because the device harvests its power from the phone.”
Dario offers a variety of viewing capabilities to study your glucose levels or food intake, either displayed individually on overlaying different graphs on one same screen. “There’s a range where you’re supposed to be on every parameter and Dario highlights your current status,” Dr. Fuerst tutors. What’s more, your history files are stored online for yours, or your clinician’s, future consultation. It’s the user who chooses who to share his data with. And last but not least, Dario has a reminder system to encourage users to check out their results more frequently thanks to the fun user experience.
It’s noteworthy to mention that Dario is prescription based, that is to say anyone can buy Dario but without a prescription your insurance won’t cover it. The product and the strip cartridges are made in the US (with Korean strips) and sell via mail order, or internet based e-commerce.
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The audio jack, bringing brands together
One point that threatened to make Dario stumble was universality. By choosing to make their product an app, LabStyle Innovations already reduced their market to smartphone holders. Now, making a phone app available for Apple and Android is no biggie. But if this app is dependent on an external device, as is Dario’s case, how will it adapt to both brand’s designs? Not to mention smartphone’s ever changing external nature. Dr. Fuerst knew it was an issue: “Take iPhone, for instance, everything changes from the iPhone 4 to the 5.” Their solution lay inside the one thing all smartphones have in common: the audio jack.
“The audio jack is standardized,” explains Dr. Fuerst “the same Dario can be used on any phone.” Truly, one thing has remained intact throughout the history of cell-phone morphing is the audio jack, the socket we plug our earphones or speakers into. This makes Dario, Dr. Fuerst is proud to point out, “compatible not only between brands, but between different versions of a same brand.”
Too cool for school
So far, he has perceived the market receptivity as “astonishing: patients are just shocked from the user experience, which is so much better than what they’re accustomed to.” He feels optimistic and reveals that they “plan to be a dominant player within a very short timeframe in this market.” But never forgetting modesty: “It’s not going to be easy but we’re very hopeful.”
Dr. Fuerst ran us through all the diabetics in the company’s board of employees. Obviously, there are too many to be a coincidence. Co-founder Dr. David Weintraub is a type 2 diabetic and co-founder Shiloh Ben Zeev, also president and COO at Labstyle Innovations, is a type 1 diabetic. “A heavy user,” Dr. Fuerst describes Ben Zeev “he tested himself ten times a day.”
According to the CEO, he joined the team precisely because he’s diabetic and wanted to try on himself the existing prototype they had. Although already being treated, “it was Dario’s user experience”, Dr. Fuerst claims, that attracted him. “We’ve taken an activity which can be embarrassing, in particular for kids, and made it cool. Type 1 diabetics are the ones who most understand how this can change their life.”
The initial funding rounds came from various undisclosed individual investors, “many of which”, Dr. Fuerst points out, “are doctors and some, diabetics or with diabetics in their family. But predominantly, they were people from the industry.” So, one of Dario’s claims to fame can be that it didn’t start attracting its target market upon launch, but during its inception.
Dario’s next scenario
Dario is shortly starting sales in Europe and will soon dive into the US. “The market we’re after is the diabetic market,” the CEO points out, “There are more than 400 million diabetics worldwide and about 10 to 20 percent of them are insulin dependent, testing themselves every day for their glucose level.”
After proving that its user experience is Dario’s beauty spot, Dr. Fuerst explains that LabStyle Innovations is planning to include novelties into Dario’s future versions along those lines: “There will be a lot of games down the road and broadening of the social network function, all for a better interactivity through the phone.”
Dario also includes information on food, the compilation of carbs, medication and physical activity. LabStyle Innovations, according to Dr. Fuerst, “is also working on different indications.” They intend to apply Dario’s technology for other ends, he explains, like creating similar apps for “cholesterol testing or other body fluid testing.”
Who would have thought we’d someday carry our doctors around in our pocket.