Hackaday Prize Entry: Reverse Engineering Blood Glucose Monitors

Blood glucose monitors are pretty ubiquitous today. For most people with diabetes, these cheap and reliable sensors are their primary means of managing their blood sugar. But what is the enterprising diabetic hacker to do if he wakes up and realizes, with horror, that a primary aspect of his daily routine doesn’t involve an Arduino?

Rather than succumb to an Arduino-less reality, he can hopefully use the shield [M. Bindhammer] is working on to take his glucose measurement into his own hands.

[Bindhammer]’s initial work is based around the popular one-touch brand of strips. These are the cheapest, use very little blood, and the included needle is not as bad as it could be. His first challenge was just getting the connector for the strips. Naturally he could cannibalize a monitor from the pharmacy, but for someone making a shield that needs a supply line, this isn’t the best option. Surprisingly, the connectors used aren’t patented, so the companies are instead just more rigorous about who they sell them to. After a bit of work, he managed to find a source.

The next challenge is reverse engineering the actual algorithm used by the commercial sensor. It’s challenging. A simple mixture of water and glucose, for example, made the sensor throw an error. He’ll get it eventually, though, making this a great entry for the Hackaday Prize.

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24 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Reverse Engineering Blood Glucose Monitors

  1. 1) One-Touch is not the cheapest, 2) Development should be done into getting rid of test strips altogether; that’s where the real money is spent. If the shield could measure glucose without a disposable strip in some way, that would be revolutionary.

    source: [http://www.cvs.com/shop/home-health-care/diabetes-care/blood-test-strips/cvs-advanced-glucose-meter-test-strips-100ct-prodid-968577?skuId=968577] + 8 years selling test strips.

    1. Matt, There are several efforts underway to eliminate the strip but none are entirely satisfactory. I looked at the affect of BC on IR transmission but the usable wavelengths are masked by other signals like PO2.

  2. According to one touch that sensor is being discontinued in favour of a new one.

    https://www.lifescan.co.uk/upgradenow

    They sent me one and it is abysmal. The tube that sucks the blood is across the sensor not on the end so if you take the sample from the back of the wrist you cannot get the sensor close due to the body of the meter.

    There are some new standards expected this year that the ultra strip does not conform to but I think they may be UK only, I am not sure about that though.

  3. What is it with glucose monitor projects lately? Measuring glucose is not childs play, it took years to develop the algorithms to measure glucose. I have seen the documentation as I have written firmware for glucose meters professionally. Its about as thick as a phone book. Its incredibly dangerous to give medical advice to somebody, what happens when you give a bad value and they shoot themselves with a bottle of insulin? My advice, get a Accu-Chek connect and a bluetooth module, it notifies out the value when the test is run. The device is designed to allow open access via BLE to the results.

      1. Totally agree, there was no claim of open source. Just open access. That particular meter conforms to the standard glucose profile as specified by the Bluetooth SIG. Just pair and request results.

    1. As a former glucose sensor R&D guy I fully agree! This is sophisticated high-tech! Reliable determining something in a complicated matrix such as (capillary) blood is not easy. Also, even if the measuring error is not causing an emergency, a long term health hazard by applying wrong doses of insulin may still exist.

      My message:
      For educational purposes (yes, electrochemistry is a fascinating subject): Go for it!
      For medical use: Hell no!

        1. Agree, My argument is usually goes along the lines of “If a company cant make money, then the technology probably wouldn’t even exist in the first place”. Its great that we have all these life saving products, but it comes at a cost. People should not expect it to be free just because it fills a need.

          1. Look, I understand your argument, and I am not saying it never holds. I understand people don’t make stuff for free. It’s just that historically the Clark electrode looks more like a counter-example:

            from WikiPedia: “Leland Clark (Professor of Chemistry, Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, and Fels Research Institute, Yellow Springs, Ohio) had developed the first bubble oxygenator for use in cardiac surgery. However, when he came to publish his results, his article was refused by the editor since the oxygen tension in the blood coming out from the device could not be measured. This instigated Clark to develop the oxygen electrode.”

            Basically, this was not about some companies competing, but about logic, reasoning, scientific method, and “where’s the data?” for the claim of oxygenation. Without this step, the jump to a glucose meter might have been to large…

  4. I once saw a hand written sign on a street corner that said “I buy used diabetes test strips” and a phone number. Any idea why someone would want used test strips???

    1. Did some digging; you may have miss-read the sign. Apparently some people buy back expired and/or unused strips and resell them on the streets. Most stores won’t buy them back even if they are unopened.
      Also, some sell them the ‘free’ strips that they can get from health insurance/Medicare. Sounds unethical. :/

      I found very little info on buying back used strips.
      If someone is buying used strips, they might be attempting to recover metals like Dan said. That’s the speculation on several forums.

    2. You can clean the blood with hydrogen peroxide and reuse the test strips. NOT RECOMMENDED, definitely not accurate, and may not even work most of the time. Still beats dying when you can’t afford new ones.

      1. Cleaning a used strip with H2O2? That is the height of desperation! There are plenty of assistance programs out there for diabetics. Those strips are called disposables for a reason.

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