Kid-Friendly Diabetes Design

Ever notice that none of the pumps, meters, or new CGMs on the market are actually designed for kids?  I mean with bold colors and super-simple buttons and big happy faces… You know, like Fisher Price on insulin? 

Well, all that may be about to change.  As part of the fallout on my iPod vs. medical design post, a 22-year-old industrial design student at Philadelphia University contacted me to say he’s devoted his thesis to designing a set of diabetic devices for children.   His name is Justin Siebel. He’s had Type 1 himself since age 11.  And the design work he is doing is pretty miraculous: Why hasn’t anyone thought of making devices for children that are intuitive, break-resistant, and actually kind of FUN?

Remember, this blueprint-stage only, since Siebel’s a student, but he is applying for patents on his way-cool concepts:

Magnatron_design_2 There’ll be a two-part wireless pump, similar but designed to be smaller than the OmniPod, called the Magnatron.  The magic is in the details: on the so-called Tosh controller, users will turn a little wind-up key on its head instead of digital menus to move through commands.  The appropriate buttons will then appear on a visual screen with a pull-down interface. Here, a little mediator called the Gluru (glucose guru) will communicate simple but important messages to kids about their diabetes, like “you have constant high blood sugars in early evening.”  Neat!

In addition, the pump sensor worn on the body will be available in three size varieties — 50, 100, or 300 units of insulin — at increasingly less noticable profiles.  It will also feature a removable soft cover shell to protect the unit during sports or roughhousing.   Siebel would like to customize the cover with sports themes “to promote activity and exercise.” Gluru_interface

Sound good?


                                                                                                                                                                                                       He’s also designing a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) called CoGuMo that will communicate wirelessly with the pump.  Not a full closed-loop system just yet, but the ability to share information. 

The last component will be a wireless viewing monitor for parents, using cell phone technology, so they can check in on their child in real-time.  (Their unit won’t have any dosing capabilities, just look-see)

Whether or not Siebel finds a company willing to bring his design in its current form to life, we are so on the right track here: a Web-Gen kid designing diabetes devices for his own community.  (He used a computer game console as his inspiration.)

“The stuff they have now is all designed for adults… it’s just too large-scale, and the aesthetics don’t fit kids,” Siebel says. “The interfaces are dry; children can’t comprehend the information.  This market has special needs: more intuitive interfaces for child use vs. adult use, and a way to communicate so the parent or guardian won’t always be worried.”

Wow, Justin, I can’t wait till more of you guys grow up.


11 Responses

  1. Maureen
    Maureen May 3, 2007 at 6:49 am | | Reply

    How terribly cool is this?? Hooray for all of the Justins out there!

  2. PrintCrafter
    PrintCrafter May 3, 2007 at 8:00 am | | Reply

    Awesome! Hooray Justin! This is exactly what we all need to do: we as PWDs need to take back our diabetes. The companies that keep us alive will never do it, they can’t, they just don’t “get it.”

  3. Scott
    Scott May 3, 2007 at 8:50 am | | Reply

    Nice design, and it doesn’t hurt to make them easy for adults, either!

  4. George
    George May 3, 2007 at 9:41 am | | Reply

    That is so fantastic!

  5. Rachel
    Rachel May 3, 2007 at 5:45 pm | | Reply

    THERE is some innovation!

  6. Bernard Farrell
    Bernard Farrell May 3, 2007 at 7:55 pm | | Reply


    This is a great start. Just please remember that fixing the hardware is only a piece of the puzzle.

    Getting the software right is at least as important. The hardware lets you control things at the instant you’re using it. The software lets you see what’s happened and analyze it to guide your decisions in the future.

    The iPod was most successful AFTER Apple provided iTunes on Windows. That’s when the hardware sales really took off.

    I believe the software for pumps, CGMs, and POMs (Plain Old Meters) is at least as important as the hardware in the long term. This was part of the reason that I argued for platform standards in my paper for the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology (

    OK, off my sandbox.

    My main point – please improve the software design as part of improving the whole system.

  7. Sarah
    Sarah May 3, 2007 at 8:43 pm | | Reply

    Very cool…*IF* it turns out to be functional.

    Anything that makes Type 1 easier for the kids until (if) a viable cure is found is good in my books!

  8. MN Web Design
    MN Web Design May 3, 2007 at 11:44 pm | | Reply

    Wow, how cool! I love the name, “Gluru”! My mom is a type 1 diabetic with a pump – now is getting a continuous glucose monitor too – and she would have LOVED having this as a kid! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Sunil S Chiplunkar
    Sunil S Chiplunkar May 4, 2007 at 12:21 am | | Reply

    Providing a holistic brand experience is still a rare thinking for pharma companies. Design is getting hotter and important in FMCG sector as it provides a good holistic brand experience. It is time pharma companies learn this aspect. This is a good URL on design

  10. Michelle
    Michelle May 6, 2007 at 7:15 am | | Reply

    wow! Very cool. There HAS to be a market for these things.

    While we’re talking about D supplies for kids, could someone PLEASE make a syringe that holds less (maybe 15u) and that has 1/4u markings?

  11. Penny
    Penny May 7, 2007 at 10:05 am | | Reply

    That is just awesome. It bolsters my hope for Riley’s future.

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