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Case Study

mLab Enables Parents of Diabetic Children to Access Vital Health Data in the Cloud

With Nightscout, children and individuals with type 1 diabetes can have their blood glucose monitored from anywhere – in real-time – with help from mLab’s easy-to-set-up cloud database.

Highlights
  • mLab enabled non-technical parents and individuals to easily configure Nightscout’s DIY solution for remote Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM).
  • Free-to-use Sandbox plans and affordable for-pay options were the right fit for the budget-sensitive Nightscout community.
  • NightScout users’ database needs are taken care of automatically and behind the scenes.
Customer Profile

Nightscout (CGM in the Cloud) is an open source, DIY project that allows real-time access to CGM data via a personal website or through any web-connected device (such as a smartphone). The project was originally created by parents of children with type 1 diabetes and has continued to be developed, maintained, and supported by volunteers.

The Challenge

Since children with type 1 diabetes are limited by the need to remain in close proximity to a caregiver, Nightscout needed a cloud database solution to make real-time CGM data more accessible.

For anyone with type 1 diabetes, careful and continuous monitoring of blood glucose is vital to his or her health and well-being. To give these individuals the information they require to manage the metabolic disease, a small wearable Continuous Glucose Monitoring device is used. These CGM systems include a subcutaneous sensor to measure glucose, and a transmitter t hat sends that data to a nearby pager-like display device. Unfortunately, these systems lacked a built-in method for making this data accessible over the internet, meaning that any monitoring or tracking of data was tethered to within a close range of the transmitter. This was especially cumbersome for children with type 1 diabetes, who could not safely be apart from parents or caregivers who had been trained to monitor data from the CGM and act accordingly.

The Nightscout (CGM in the Cloud) project was created by and for these parents, as well as for adults who also wanted the benefits of enabling access to their CGM data from afar. The purpose of Nightscout is to deliver real-time access to CGM devices through the cloud, making it possible to monitor that data from any internet-connected smart phone, desktop, laptop, tablet, or smart watch. Because no solution was available on the market to fulfill this need, a group of parents and developers took matters into their own hands and developed Nightscout as an open source, community-supported, do-it-yourself project. This proactive approach to creating solutions that better utilize devices and health data is exemplified in the group’s rallying cry, #WeAreNotWaiting.

Nightscout’s users come from diverse backgrounds and most are not trained software developers, so when it came to selecting a cloud database solution to handle CGM data for the project, it was critical that they find a solution that was as easy to use as possible. And, being a non-profit organization, Nightscout was also extremely price-sensitive. All in all, Nightscout needed a low-cost, easy-to-use solution that was simple enough that non-technical users could create and administrate their own cloud databases.

Solution

mLab offers a solution that meets Nightscout users’ needs for simplicity and affordability while ensuring that CGM data is easily accessible in the cloud.

Nightscout’s developers – that is, a subset of the group’s parents of children with type 1 diabetes – selected mLab as the most straightforward, affordable, and reliable Database-as-a-Service platform that provided MongoDB cloud databases.

Importantly, Nightscout’s developers liked that mLab can deploy databases across multiple cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, and Google. Azure’s Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) became a very helpful resource for the development team, because the PaaS requires users to fork the project they are copying. This makes it easier to track changes in a particular user’s codebase and to troubleshoot any issues.

Both Azure and mLab have free offerings for users. Azure offers a free trial and mLab offers a free Sandbox plan with up to 500MB of storage. mLab also proved simple enough to implement that the non-technically inclined families and individuals that commonly use Nightscout were able to set up an account, follow a short list of instructions, and get up and running without needing to have a deep understanding of the code they are working with.

Nightscout’s CGM in the Cloud Facebook community focuses on providing assistance to its users, and typically a member of the volunteer support staff will communicate over the phone to help a new user get started. Once the necessary code is in place, the user has a site can be accessed from anywhere, using whatever online device they prefer.

Nightscout’s community and users are mostly families and definitely not experienced developers, so we had to make it as easy to use as we could. We have a critical need for simplicity and affordability in the technology we use, and mLab certainly fits this description with its Database-as- a-Service platform. Using mLab, our parents – with no coding skills – are able to quickly implement and effectively operate their own DIY cloud databases. It really is quite a feat, and a tremendous service to the children and individuals whose CGM data is now so much more easily accessible.

Ben West Co-founder, Nightscout

Benefits

Empowered by mLab, Nightscout frees children and individuals to venture further while their CGM data is safely monitored in the cloud

The ability for Nightscout users to access CGM data through mLab’s cloud database service changes the day-to-day lives for the families and individuals involved. Parents in the Nightscout community report that their children with type 1 diabetes now have more freedom and can participate in a greater range of experiences. They can go to school, play organized sports, or sleep over at a friend’s house without having to worry about CGM. Parents now have the peace of mind to know that their children are safe.

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