NEWS FLASH: SF Design Firm Unveils the Diabetes “Charmr”

While Apple is touting their new iLife, I’m positively tickled to announce that an alternate organization on the cutting edge of consumer design has taken up my challenge to Steve Jobs to develop a diabetes management device that blows our socks off. In terms of sleek design and unprecedented ease-of-use, that is.

The company is San Francisco-based design agency Adaptive Path, a small but creative powerhouse that’s accomplished some eye-popping redesigns for the likes of Blogger, Flickr, Crayola, Cathay Pacific and even the United Nations.

They first contacted me back in June with this note: “We were so inspired by your blog posting that we have put together a small team to work on your challenge.” I thought it might be a joke. But a month later, I was invited in for lunch and a preview of their research. What greeted me were walls and walls of white board, covered with scribbled phrases and dozens more post-it notes with even more scribbled phrases, all about the hassles of living with diabetes: the numbers, the frustrations, the many inconvenient and incompatible devices we’re expected to use. There were also dozens of pinned-up photos of PWDs giving testimonials — holding their devices, jogging, laughing, injecting, changing infusion sets. I was almost taken aback at the sheer amount of “homework” the firm had already done. I gave them my two cents about how we’d all kill for a smaller, sleeker control system that actually looks and feels good.

The resulting design was announced today (!), just a short while ago, at a national event called User Experience Week 2007 in Washington, DC.

Meet the Charmr. Watch the YouTube video below.

At this point, the Charmr is a prototype for the future only, but what a concept!

The “Charmr” itself is an iPod-styled controller unit for a combined insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor system.


Designed expressly to be “fun, small, flexible, and cool,” the Charmr actually has the look of a combo iPod and USB memory stick. You can choose where to wear it — on your wrist, on a keychain, or on a cord as a necklace. Downloading both your glucose trends and insulin dosing data is as easy as plugging the USB port end directly into your computer.


The insulin reservoir for the “patch pump” and sensor for the CGM are set on your body together in a single soft, skin-colored shell. It’s wireless and waterproof, and delivers on the “looks good and feels comfortable” imperative, Adaptive Path promises.


I know, I know: promises, promises…

But all the technology they’re forecasting already exists today. Now all we need is some established-yet-forward-thinking pharmaceutical company to invest in making the Charmr dream come true.


41 Responses

  1. Carey
    Carey August 14, 2007 at 12:01 pm | | Reply


  2. Tim
    Tim August 14, 2007 at 12:05 pm | | Reply

    I’m not all that impressed. It’s still a GIANT adhesive patch with multiple canulas sticking in your gut. My crusty old 507C has one small point of contact with my body, and I can detach that whenever I want. It’s small enough that I can insert the infusion into my leg beneath my pants or shorts, so I’m not left with a gigantic white spot after a day in the sun.

    The problem with the pump isn’t its interface to control it, it’s its interface with your body. There’s nothing difficult or embarrassing about pulling a fob out of your pocket and pressing a couple buttons. But trying to play sports, be intimate or get a tan with an adhesive bandage the size my hand stuck to my gut is ridiculous. That’s where the sexy design is needed.

  3. Allison
    Allison August 14, 2007 at 12:32 pm | | Reply


    I kind of agree with you. But the adhesive patch is probably optional and if the resevoir, set and sensor were small enough, it probably would be no more different than unclipping the pump and having the set remain adhered to your skin. If it was also convenient to wear on your thigh or your lower back, you might not notice it as much during sex or sports. This is just a prototype, so I’m sure the actual interface will change between now and whenever it launches (presumably 2-3 years).

  4. Eric Link
    Eric Link August 14, 2007 at 12:37 pm | | Reply

    Hi Amy -

    A neat design study. Certainly ‘interesting’ but not a great surge ahead. The reality is that here at Diabetech we do these a couple of times a year related to new product development. We have our CAD designer complete a model, then get an SLA made, then put in electronics to make a real working model. This is usually accomplished over the course of a week or two .
    The hard part follows – fine tuning, getting real feedback in studies and trials (, and then submitting for FDA approval. Getting all the pieces right takes far more than a design study. It takes years of dedication to get a product to market that has all the ingredients needed for a great product. There are delicate balances of product liability and user friendliness to consider as well (consult w/ your lawyer here ;) So it’s easy to crank something out on a whiteboard and do a mock up, another to create a working prototype, and yet another to create a real product that can be marketed. You should also realize people like us and others have been working toward this goal for years (another example is pelikan technologies

  5. Amalas
    Amalas August 14, 2007 at 12:43 pm | | Reply

    The adhesive patch thing really isn’t that much different than say, the Omnipod, which certain people ;) wear and love.

  6. Manny Hernandez
    Manny Hernandez August 14, 2007 at 12:46 pm | | Reply

    This is AWESOME!!!!!!! You are pushing the industry into reinventing itself, girl!!

    Way to go!

  7. Anne
    Anne August 14, 2007 at 12:53 pm | | Reply

    I think it is awesome! Let’s get it done. I am happy to see a computer interface that is similar to others we use instead of some obscure data format that requires some custom cables and software. Of course there are regulatory requirements and I don’t think the patch thing will work yet (CGM sensors can’t be that close to infusion sites). But I would be so happy to get rid of my strings and huge purse to carry my Dexcom, 2 meters, and other diabetes crap. Bring it on! The more competition in this area, the better, in my opinion!

    Eric, I’d be interested to hear more about what you are developing at Pelikan Technologies…

  8. Justin
    Justin August 14, 2007 at 12:58 pm | | Reply

    Wow. I a impressed that someone would devote the development time into coming up with this concept. It’s awesome.

    I hope that Adaptive Path takes the lead on this and looks for manufacturers outside of the pharmaceutical world. Pharms may not want to bite.

    Let’s really revoultionize

  9. Eric Link
    Eric Link August 14, 2007 at 1:00 pm | | Reply

    Hi Anne -

    The links in my post had a problem, here are the correct links:

    I’m a co-founder here at Diabetech… Pelikan is another example of a company that has been doing what Amy is advocating here for years.

  10. Challenge Diabetes
    Challenge Diabetes August 14, 2007 at 2:01 pm | | Reply

    Adhesive Bandages Are A Regulated Medical Device Didnt You Know

    Cool Consumerist Pay Phone Design
    (suffering from the infamous blue screen of death – not so cool if it was your pump, eh?).
    Adhesive bandages happen to be a Class 1 medical device while glucose meters are Class 2. Implants are Class 3. And a lot of…

  11. michael
    michael August 14, 2007 at 2:35 pm | | Reply

    (sarcasm = ON position)
    god forbid a design start from the perspective of the user experience

  12. AmyT
    AmyT August 14, 2007 at 3:55 pm | | Reply

    I suppose I neglected to point out the obvious: the revolutionary part of this is the controller device, the Charmr itself, whereas the infusion site/adhesive in their current form are nothing to write home about.

  13. birdie
    birdie August 14, 2007 at 6:55 pm | | Reply

    What I love about this it is puts a viable, alternative idea out there for people and pump companies to react to. This concept helps us move beyond the place of “taking what we get” or being viewed as “complainers” that can be dismissed, to a new type of discussion. One where the bar has been raised on what could be better than the status quo.

    Huge props to you Amy, for changing the game by articulating the issue and getting it heard. It’s absolutely amazing to me to see the power of one voice through the relatively new landscape of blogs! You’ve made such a difference!

    And if you ever need any other insights or design feedback, I’d love to help in any way possible.

    So very cool!

  14. Mary
    Mary August 14, 2007 at 8:21 pm | | Reply

    That patch is the most hideous thing ever. Not in a million years would I choose to wear anything that ugly 24/7. It doesn’t matter how cool the controller happens to be! In fact, the more I see of the “patch pumps”, the more I wish someone was just working on making the conventional pumps smaller. I’d rather conceal a pump in my clothing that use clothing to conceal a lump attached to my body.

  15. chuck
    chuck August 15, 2007 at 5:42 am | | Reply

    Congratulations on one of your dreams getting one step closer to reality. And as one who’ll benefit, I’d like to thank you ahead of time!

  16. Allison
    Allison August 15, 2007 at 6:07 am | | Reply

    I agree, but the actual “patch pump” can change design. I wouldn’t mind have just the resevoir connected to me in a very small, thin box that didn’t look so bulky when I wore a skirt or a dress (I have yet to find a place where I can really hide an insulin pump). Then you could use the Charmr to do all the controls with. I’m sure you could figure out different options for people between now and when it actually launches. Remember, this is a concept, not the end-all-be-all. I would be shocked if they didn’t change a few things based on the feedback they’re getting.

  17. Ed
    Ed August 15, 2007 at 6:44 am | | Reply

    I don’t think the infusion site will change until the industry figures out a semi-permenanet insulin delivery device that does not increase the chance of infection. If a some sort of carteradge could be screwed into the skin every few days it would eliminate the need for multiple patches.

  18. Kerri.
    Kerri. August 15, 2007 at 7:48 am | | Reply

    In this sort of scenario, I think that “more is more.” The more attention paid to developing better technology, the more often better technology will be developed. (That sentence is a grammatical nightmare, but you get the picture.)

    I love seeing any and all advancements in treatment. Keep ‘em coming! :)

  19. Rosalind
    Rosalind August 15, 2007 at 8:32 am | | Reply

    I agree with Kerri. I, too, think that the more they work on improvements, the more likely they are to happen. I’m dumbfounded by how primitive the technology is for an ileostomy (which I live with) and I can only think that it’s because no one sees the dollar signs. Amy, you’re doing a great job with moving things up front!

  20. Kent
    Kent August 15, 2007 at 9:31 am | | Reply

    I really like the design. I agree with other’s comments that there are many companies coming up with similar ideas. My question is where are they then?

    There have been a lot of great improvements over the years with pump and glucose monitoring technology, but they still don’t handle the “usability factor” which is the key issue.

    Give me a pump that interfaces with a continues glucose monitor system that is actually wearable in the real world and I’m on board. This concept idea looks good, but I would want to see what the size of this patch actually is. But for me even existing pumps would be fine if it ties into a similar interface of this Charmr FOB device with continual glucose monitoring.

  21. Jamie
    Jamie August 15, 2007 at 11:22 am | | Reply

    Cool, but all these things are already possible. The Minimed paradigm pump delivers insulin, and there is a continuous glucose monitor available with it. It sends glucose readings wirelessly to the pump for real time reading. And all of the data is downloadable, so you can review everything.

  22. JasonJayhawk
    JasonJayhawk August 16, 2007 at 1:24 am | | Reply

    Great, now I fear that as soon as a DME company comes up with a new insulin pump that has any sort of design components that look close to “the Charmr”, they’ll be sued for patent infringement. Woo-hoo!

    Good press for Adaptive Path by taking on this project!

  23. Dan 2
    Dan 2 August 16, 2007 at 7:00 am | | Reply

    Concept Plans and the “Charmr”.
    With any technical equipment, one needs to consider the downtime (not working). Having worn an insulin pump for over 9 years, it is a wonder the “things” that can go wrong. Added in my compliment of tools is a Precision Xtra meter that reads blood glucose, BG, AND blood ketones. BG can start to rise for a number of reasons. Warm weather, subtle changes in health, allergy reactions, purity, strength and potency of the insulin, small blood leakage around the soft inset are just a few that can have an effect on insulin absorption in the blood stream. High BG with a Ketone headach can be a real pain and the sooner that BG number return to normal the better. Looking forward to a release date! Keep up the good work Amy and have a great day. Dan

  24. Reg Bertrand
    Reg Bertrand August 16, 2007 at 7:57 am | | Reply

    WOW!!!! that is impressive…..let’s hope they move forward with this….

  25. M
    M August 17, 2007 at 2:09 am | | Reply

    Cool start and application of current technologies.

    Might I offer a design enhancement? … include a trend tracker – a Charmr that “gets to know you” and suggests specific treatment.

  26. Pioneering Ideas
    Pioneering Ideas August 17, 2007 at 11:10 am | | Reply

    It’s a Charmr: A Vision for More User-Friendly Diabetes Management?

    Project HealthDesign’s blog points out the Charmr: a Design Concept for Managing Diabetes. The Charmr was designed by the San Francisco firm Adaptive Path, known in Web circles as a trendsetter with clients as diverse as Blogger, CNN and Crayola.

  27. dr alan flores
    dr alan flores August 18, 2007 at 10:58 am | | Reply

    This is really a very cool device. When I see this kind of technology I feel happy and sad at the same time.

    In México, this technology may take several years to be available. We are still trying to make the “big” insulin pump available for some people.

    Hopefully we can see it soon.

    Congratulations Amy!

  28. Roto
    Roto August 19, 2007 at 8:49 am | | Reply

    I just came to this site from a Diabetes group on MySpace. I saw the YouTube video about this earlier this week, as someone posted a link in the group.

    Here’s my comment: While the concept shown in the video seems like a step forward, I question the design of the Charmr unit for one major obstacle of all miniture electronics today – battery life. The Charmr as presented in the video would likely need to be recharged every day, as it’s small size would not accomodate both the electronics and battery. So the design would ultimately be affected by the desired battery life. If users wanted long battery life, then the unit would get much larger to accomodate the necessary battery. Or if the public wanted a tiny unit, then they would be burdened with recharging it daily.

    It’s an interesting concept, but I don’t think that today’s or even tomorrow’s technology could make this a reality.

  29. snacks for diabetics
    snacks for diabetics August 19, 2007 at 6:00 pm | | Reply

    Very interesting and impressive, keep it up!

  30. David
    David August 19, 2007 at 6:54 pm | | Reply

    Hi, I just saw this after looking for any info on a rwal cure. Im a 37 year diabetic that has done remarkably well just taking 1 shot daily. I just went to a mini med pump and feel like ive lost the battle. I cant stand to be connected to it 24/7. What happened to all the promising inselet research?


  31. Ch
    Ch August 22, 2007 at 5:04 am | | Reply

    Diabetes – the Charmr

    Diabetes – the Charmr

  32. no sugar
    no sugar September 19, 2007 at 1:48 am | | Reply

    There were other projects that attempted to do the same and they weren’t very successful, so let’s hope that this one will be different.

  33. Kevin D
    Kevin D October 10, 2007 at 6:29 pm | | Reply

    I am now 41 years old and since 1977 at the age of 11 that I became a diabetic, the technology has made many strides to make my living with the disease easier. I love the concept of the charmer. Heck, every year the cell phone gets smaller and smarter. But I can’t stop thinking on a much smaller scale. Something like an injection of programmed bacteria to jump start your non working pancreas. HOW?, hey I am by far not a scientist. I want the improbable dream, not having DIABETES PERIOD.

  34. Lesley Jordan
    Lesley Jordan October 15, 2007 at 6:34 am | | Reply

    Thanks for the link. This is an appealing concept. The technology already exists (see DexCom and Paradigm Real Time). The next step, to avoid the big patch that so many people have commented on, is to combine it with the DiaPort. I don’t know if this has reached the US yet, but is up and running in Mainland Europe, with around 200 users around the world, including me in the UK. The DiaPort is an implanted infusion site, and uptake of insulin is quicker than subcut uptake as its taken up by the portal circulation rather than the peripheral.
    I’m glad I’ve found your site. Lots of very interesting stuff and some great links, too.
    Accu-chek Spirit and DiaPort user, UK.

  35. Design manager
    Design manager November 9, 2007 at 6:39 am | | Reply

    Something wrong with video, I couldn’t download it.
    But actually I just want to thank you for your ideas, I have to best friends who suffer from diabets and see and fell all the complexity of their lifes.

  36. taulandi
    taulandi February 13, 2008 at 4:22 am | | Reply

    I am not very optimist about the insulin intake for those with type 2 diabetes since it have site effects.

  37. Dewey
    Dewey February 16, 2008 at 8:19 pm | | Reply

    Amy, I love the idea and am not worried about the patch part at all. I’m all about innovation and trying new things, and my thoughts are that if we can make cell phones with full and rich color touch screens, then why can’t the same be done for insulin delivery technologies? I am hopeful that this idea will make it through and become available in the near future. There will always be some who may disagree with the idea or who may dislike aspects of it, but since there are other options available, they can always go another route. :)

  38. jonathan
    jonathan March 1, 2008 at 9:17 am | | Reply

    buenas tardes soy de argentina quiero tener mas info sobre el producto y donde lo puedo comprar ya que tengo esta enfermedad y estoy con un metodo bastante incomodo desde ya gracias y si es posible que me manda la info en español desde gracias jonathan

  39. Billie Manning
    Billie Manning February 15, 2010 at 10:52 am | | Reply

    Is this project still in progress?

  40. dvla
    dvla September 23, 2010 at 7:22 am | | Reply

    So has anything come of this diabetes management device. I have look for it but not found anything that lives up to this.

  41. Scott S
    Scott S January 25, 2012 at 7:20 am | | Reply

    I’m a bit late in commenting, but my only hope is that Adaptive Path realizes that not every person with diabetes WANTS an insulin pump (I pumped a number of years ago, but found that because I already had excellent glycemic control there was virtually no improvement, and I frankly didn’t find the frequent infusion set changes and wasted insulin to prime the infusion set worth the hassle). Beyond this, however, some patients simply cannot afford this devices because they have high-deductible insurance plans, durable medical equipment limitations on their policies, are on social security, etc. Therefore, I would HOPE they can acknowledge some of the new (and pending FDA approval, but are already in Europe and likely to be here in the not-too-distant future) devices such as the Timesulin insulin pen cap to measure dosage times, or the Roche/Accu Chek Aviva Expert which is a meter that offers dosage recommendations and insulin on board for non-pump users) should also be factored into their plans. Hopefully, you can share this with them?! Much appreciated.

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