Wednesday, February 5, 2014

"We Are Not Waiting": The Tidepool/Asante Partnership.

Last week it was announced that Asante, makers of the Snap insulin pump, are the first diabetes device company to partner with Tidepool, a non-profit working to reduce the burden of T1D, in an effort to make diabetes device data open and available to patients and their caregivers.

This is where I'm going to highly encourage you to check out what Tidepool is doing, because it helps explain why this partnership with Asante is such a big, big deal.

I wanted to learn more about what exactly this partnership means, so I reached out to Asante and was able to chat with their CEO, David Thrower, and then with the CEO of Tidepool, Howard Look. They were kind enough to talk me through some of their vision for what this partnership could mean, and how it might improve the lives of PWDs.

What I learned is: yes, this is HUGE.

Wait, nope, hang on. More emphasis required.


For example: you know how if you wear one brand's pump but want to use another brand's CGM, you're stuck using two different proprietary software programs to upload and interpret your data - and maybe you can't even access all of the data you want? Same goes for a glucose meter that works independently of your insulin pump or your CGM. They're all stand-alone devices, and most of them don't talk to each other. You're often forced to choose between using devices that the manufacturer has decided to integrate (a Medtronic pump and CGM, or an Animas Ping and their meter-remote, for example), or using the devices that you like best.

What if you were no longer bound by proprietary nonsense, and could choose devices based on what works best for you without being bound by what device-makers decide would work together? What if you could upload everything to one platform, and that platform could tell you everything about what your devices are capturing and recording - and help you decide what to do next?

What if that platform enabled you to use any number of apps, all of which were pulling data from all of your devices?

What if you could log into the cloud and see your child's CGM graph, in real time - while they're away from home?

A demo screenshot of what Tidepool's platform might let one see, moving in real time

What if you could send that CGM graph to another device? What if the graph you could see belonged to your child; your spouse; your patient?

What if your data was yours, and you got to choose how to look at it and what to do with it?

A screenshot from Tidepool's first app, "blip".

That's exactly what Tidepool is working to make a reality, and Asante has made a bold step in being the first device company to say, "yeah, we believe in this vision of open device data, too". As Tidepool's Look put it, "It's very apparent that there's a need for open data that PWDs and their caregivers can access in whatever way they want". Asante's Thrower echoed: "We founded Asante with the notion that diabetes comes with a constant and high cognitive load, and whatever we can do on our side to reduce that burden - to simplify the monitoring and treating of diabetes - that's what we ought to do".

And also from Thrower (I'm paraphrasing here): "In all of our strategies, let's treat people like people - not just consumers attached to a medical device. Their device choices should be based on what works best for them, not what works with what you already have. A logical extension of this is to make available to people whatever data is useful or that can inform their management decisions." And not in an endless, unintelligible spreadsheet, either - they want to present that data in a way that people can understand and use.

Can I get an amen!

So all of this sounds great, but isn't FDA going to need to approve this? (And the cynics in us lament, and how long will that take?)

Yes, they will. And here's what they had to say: the key is engage early and often, and Tidepool has already met several times with FDA. Tidepool aims to classify their platform as a "masterfile" with FDA, and any corresponding applications may or may not need subsequent FDA approval.

So what can we, as a community, do to help make sure this vision of open and accessible data becomes reality? Here is Tidepool's ask:

  • If folks would like to stay in touch with updates, they can add themselves to our mailing list at and also follow us at @Tidepool_org and .
  • We are about to start a pilot study of blip at UCSF. If folks are patients at UCSF, they should talk to their doctors there.
  • Open source developers should send us a note, Soon we’ll have lots of ways they can contribute. They can also find our code repositories at, and our nascent developer portal at We’d also love help from QA people, test developers, and documentation tech writers.
  • Of course, as a non-profit, we warmly welcome donations to our efforts at

And here's where the business major in me raises its voice: I hope the market rewards companies like Asante for making bold steps like this. If this is truly the kind of revolution we want for ourselves, we have to raises our voices.

(And remember - Asante is still offering those four-week free trials with their insulin pump.)

Editor's Note: Neither Asante nor Tidepool solicited me to write about this. When I saw the news break last week I was surprised to not see more enthusiasm and excitement, so I'm assuming most people just didn't realize what had happened. This is my own effort to help spread the word.


  1. Kim- Great post! I was extremely excited when I read the news about Asante and Tidepool partnering. Seriously, access to our own data is huge! I hope everyone will read your post and become just as excited as you and I.

  2. This is SO exciting, for people with T1, for my child with T1, for the PWD that she is and will continue to be as she grows. Imagine your OWN use of your OWN data - it's like a little bit of magic! Thanks for all this info, Kim!

  3. Great article -- thanks for the reporting work. I have Animas Ping Diasend and DexCom Studio. Can't merge the data points together. I am excited and hope everyone will read and get involved. Mike Anderson

  4. Great reporting work on this, Kim. Yes, very exciting to see this happening, and hopefully more of the bigger names in the industry will step forward and do the same. One of the interesting aspects I learned from this was how Tidepool's mega-minds have created a workaround to the CGMs, so that they can pull the data from those devices regardless of whether MedT or Dex has actually agreed. Very interesting. Also exciting to see the push to create the FDA masterfile that will make this more of a meaningful change for everyone, regardless of what device might be used. Long overdue, but really glad to see industry making the moves to this and the FDA being open to it more. Thanks for helping to spread word.

  5. So, SO excited about this. Not only for inter device connectivity. Also the fact that having one standard makes it easier to talk across operating systems. Also the fact that open data exchange enables the potential for programmers & engineers to do things that no one is even talking about yet. This is all around great news, and bravo to Asante for going ahead now. Personally would love for Medtronic and Dexcom to talk.

  6. Kim, this IS HUGE. Thanks for the great info. And I'm hoping it's just the beginning. I still wonder why OUR data isn't readily available via iOS or Android or whatever-else, so we can access it via our tablets or smartphones. Just makes sense, right?

    I'm headed to D.C. tomorrow for a conference on medical device interoperability. I hope to hear more encouraging news there.

  7. Great post Kim! Do you mind if this is shared in a newsletter to other PWD? Credit given to you with a link to your post of course!

  8. You had me at "What if you could log into the cloud and see your child's CGM graph, in real time - while they're away from home?"

    How incredible would that be? But just can't even fathom how that would change our lives. And give her more freedom and independence.

    I'm sold.

  9. "What if you were no longer bound by proprietary nonsense" <---sounds impossibly wonderful!

    Who is the person from the future with the informative, square watch?

    1. Click through to his Twitter profile Katy - he's pretty cool.

  10. This is a great start, but I have to curtail my enthusiasm just a bit until it's real (six and a half "only five years" periods with D will do that). I would love to see all my data overlapped and aggregated in one place, but what I would love even more is to have all of my devices have access, and legal authority, to USE that data.

    I keep going back to what one of the speakers at MedtronicDAF said about open-sourcing and having devices talk to, and act upon, one another. If a meter talks to a pump (and that process has been FDA approved), the meter company can't just improve their test-strip without going through the whole meter-pump-interface-approval thing again, so all of these different manufacturers would need to synchronize when they launch new products. The details are kind of fuzzy, but it seemed like getting an open-standard for device-to-device communications was a non-starter.

    But at least for the purpose of collecting and displaying the data, it's a huge step from what we've got now.

  11. this is so so so great! thanks for pulling it all together in an easy-to-digest format!

  12. Thank you for posting this, Kim! As someone who is going back on an insluin pump after a 6 year break, this is amazing news. Can you explain the twitter image of the pebble watch, is this an app that is currently avaialble or is this one of the tests apps they are currently running? I would be interested to know more! Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Heather! John Costik (the guy who shared that image on Twitter; click through on that image and you'll find him) would be the guy to ask. :)

  13. But... but... other than hacking the data, how do we get the other companies to buy in?

    Remember when we were talking to a diabetes company about a related issue and they said "but why would we do that?" If it doesn't profit them financially (in the short term at least), how do we get them on board?

    1. That's already happened Sara. Asante was recently the first pump company to sign up with Tidepool -- so they'll bypass creating their own proprietary software in favor of this open solution.

      See for their reasoning and plans.

  14. Awesome post Kim, thank you! Hope you saw our original coverage at

    We'd like to talk with you about getting involved in the DiabetesMine Innovation Summit / D-Data ExChange event where the #wearenotwaiting campaign originated (Tidepool co-hosted and John Costik was involved). Look for an email from me soon :)

  15. I was curious... then you said this... "log into the cloud and see your child's CGM graph, in real time - while they're away from home?"

    I'm sold!

  16. I was very excited to see this development. However, I became concerned when I read that "Also integrally involved was D-Dad and Chief Engineer at Medtronic Lane Desborough". From my experience Medtronic is a major part of the problem. They DO NOT facilitate any of this. They are driven by profit and excuses about why that can't help people living with T1D and blaming others for their problems (Mac, Java, FDA, systems too old, systems too new etc, etc, etc).


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