It’s Not Magic (Anymore)

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I wholeheartedly agree with John Biggs’ blog post regarding Apple’s use of “magical” as a way of describing their products. The iPad isn’t magic. It’s a big iPhone. There is no brand new technology in the iPad that we haven’t seen before. Of course, according to Clarke’s three laws of prediction:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Just because an advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic doesn’t make it equal to magic. You may not be able to tell the difference, but underneath the facade is an explainable, repeatable process. We’ve all seen card tricks and slight-of-hand tricks performed by magicians. There is a reason that magicians don’t show how their tricks are performed; they lose their magic. In fact once a magician’s secrets have been revealed, the end result usually turns out to be mechanical in nature. This planet has had the benefit of the iPhone for almost 3 years now; all of the media coverage, both in the technical and mainstream environments, have stripped the iPhone of any semblance of its magical qualities.

The iPad is no different; this is the same “sufficiently advanced technology” that powers the iPhone. Yes, it is a form factor that may change the landscape of personal computing. As the software matures and utilizes the iPad to its fullest extent, we (hopefully) gain the benefit of increased productivity. However, it’s still the same hardware in the same form factor. We know how it works; the illusion is broken. It’s not magic anymore.

Now, if you can turn the iPad into a flying carpet, that would be magical (at least until those secrets were revealed.)

iPhone and Diabetes

Diabetes, Geek 7 Comments »

The iPhone is an amazing phone. Love it or hate it, you need to acknowledge that it was the first phone that was a game changer in the field of smart phones. Windows Mobile phones, while extremely functional and capable, didn’t have the ease of use to make it a viable choice over a simple feature phone to non tech-savvy people. The iPhone increased the speed of smartphone adoption and revitalized the mobile platform as a whole.

In spite of that, I was a late adopter of the iPhone, waiting until after the iPhone 3G but before the 3.0 OS was out for my purchase. With the promise of copy and paste as well as push notifications being thrown around with the upcoming update, I made the plunge in February of 2009, slightly before the iPhone 3.0 OS was announced.  On March 17th, 2009, the official announcement was made. This did include the aforementioned copy and paste and push notifications as well as landscape mode and MMS as well as some rich new APIs for developers to use.

At that announcement, Apple invited Lifescan to demonstrate an application that integrated the iPhone with a glucometer. A glucometer (glucose meter) is a device that, with a small sample of blood, can determine the amount of glucose in your blood stream. These meters are the speedometer of the diabetic, allowing the user to make informed decisions about their dietary intake, insulin usage as well as keep track of overall sugar control. There is no cure for diabetes; diabetics must manage their blood sugar levels on their own, and the only reliable way to gauge glucose levels is to measure them with a glucometer.

As a diabetic and a technology fan, I was overjoyed. Managing diabetes is a time consuming task. I welcome and encourage any tool that can be utilized to ease keeping track of glucose levels. Yet, here we are, over a year later, and the entire system promised in the 3.0 OS announcement is vaporware. Sure. there is other software that I’ve tried, both for the iPhone (such as Glucose Buddy and bant), and even some meters, with serial cables, can connect to proprietary software and transfer your data to your computer for further analysis. These work, but they are all designed to work best within their own framework. Though Glucose Buddy is able to export your data in a CSV format to you via email, it’s certainly not ideal for running an automated system.

What I’m looking for is a simple way to log my blood sugars into a database where I can then process the data however I want.  Perhaps I am an edge case, since, as a web developer, I know how to harness and process data. However, I am astonished that none of the diabetes applications have taken that step to allow full data usage. It’s my health data! I want to use it in a way that’s meaningful to me, not in the way that your application prescribes. Most of the applications that I’ve seen are bloated; they include carb counting, interfacing with twitter, a forum, or some other social network. I don’t want that. I need a place to enter a glucose reading, the time, a time slot (such as breakfast, lunch, dinner) and a free text area for notes. That’s it! The application should take minimal time to load and allow me to enter the data fast and move on with my life. When I’m ready, I should be able to upload the data to a server where I can then organize, graph, annotate and review my data further.

I have thought of writing my own application to do all of this processing. However, I have concerns about storing personally identifiable medical information in accordance with HIPAA regulations. I would like to research how these regulations would apply to an application for simple blood glucose management. In this litigious society, I’d rather not take a chance to be sued. If anybody has some good links that covers these issues, it would be appreciated if you could leave them in the comments.

Apple and Lifescan have demonstrated the future of blood glucose management. The technology exists to make this all happen. They have dangled it in front of me, showing how easy they could make diabetes management. Others have tried to fill the gap, but fall short with bloated applications that do little to enable data portability. I want simple. I want easy. I want to control my diabetes, rather than having my diabetes (and the technology that I use to monitor it) control me.

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