Tyra K, a 22-year-old graduate from the University of Huddersfield, surpassed thousands of entries and became a finalist in the 2020 Global Grad Show. Tyra, a product design graduate, created a discreet earring that can monitor blood glucose levels in real-time.
I found her story to be quite fascinating along with her reason for creating this device, being that Tyra herself does not live with diabetes. I thought it would be nice to hear from Tyra on how this idea came to life.
Hi Tyra, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I understand you do not live with diabetes. What gave you the inspiration to work on such a project?
Hi, thank you for having me! I was inspired to create a product that helped with type 1 diabetes (T1D) management after an incident that happened with a neighbor of mine. In summer 2019, my neighbor who is a male that lives independently had an unexpected hypoglycemic attack. Fortunately for him, the windows were open, which allowed me and my family members to hear a faint shout for help.
After realizing our neighbor needed assistance, we were able to gain access to his house and immediately called for the ambulance. After my neighbor had received medical assistance and the situation was resolved, it came to light that his hypoglycaemic attack developed thought-out the night, which almost triggered a diabetic coma. Due to this unfortunate circumstance, I was inspired to create a product that can prevent potentially fatal situations and support T1Ds.
What were the first steps you took once you had the idea? I know so many people have ideas but do not know how to execute them.
Once I decided to investigate diabetes management, my initial plan was to conduct and collect as much research as possible. As I am not a person with T1D, nor did I have much knowledge on the subject, [so] it was very important to me to learn as much as possible.
I set up focus groups, interviews, and questionnaires, to pinpoint the main areas of concern. Thanks to the help of the participating parents whose children have type 1 diabetes, I was able to create a focus group. This highlighted the main concerns among children/teenagers, such as the insecurities of managing diabetes in the presence of other people. I thought this was upsetting; no child should be embarrassed to monitor and control their health, especially as it is no fault of their own.
After processing all this information, I decided to create a product that would reduce the stigma of diabetes management and encourage younger type 1s to monitor their condition in a manner that caters to their needs.
I live with type 1 diabetes and wear the Dexcom G6 and find the technology to be life-saving. What makes your Sense Glucose Earring better than the big names like Dexcom and Freestyle Libre?
Products from brands such as Dexcom and Freestyle are revolutionary. The progress in diabetes management over the last 10 years is remarkable as the technology within existing products has helped many diabetics worldwide. Various CGMs seen on the market will cater to different consumer needs. Every consumer is different and will want different things from a product.
The Sense Glucose Earring is different from the leading brands as it focuses on making glucose monitoring discreet, quick and simple. It is designed to look like a piece of wearable tech, similar to wireless earphones, which aims to make monitoring in social situations more appealing and less distressing.
I think the earring idea is a fascinating one. How exactly does it measure your blood through your earlobe? Is insertion painful? Do you need finger prick calibrations?
Thank you! I am unable to give the full details on the technology at this stage, as the product is still being developed. However, I can tell you that inserting the device would not be painful, as it will fit into standard lobe piercing, so the only slightly painful part would be getting your ear pierced!
How often will you have to change the sensor? Or is it rechargeable?
The great thing about the Sense earring is that it is rechargeable. The device does not contain any disposable plastic components, the earring can be wiped clean and used as and when required. The life span of the product is yet to be confirmed, but the product is designed to last substantially longer than current invasive sensors.
I understand that once the Sense detects blood sugar levels, it then transmits the information to an app. What features does this app have other than displaying your blood sugar?
The app, like the earring, is still under development, but I hope that it will provide a personal experience for T1Ds, by providing the option for T1Ds share their glucose data with trusted family and friends, which creates a personal support network for the users who require it.
Since the inspiration for this device came from you chairing a focus group of parents who all had the same sentiments of their child not wanting to manage their condition in public due to the stigma, have you reconnected with these families to show them what you have created? What was their reaction? I’d imagine they were touched and humbled by your success!
Yes! I recently spoke to the chairwoman of the support group, who informed me that the group responded positively towards the Sense Glucose Earring and was excited to see how the product progresses in the Global Grad Show.
What are the next steps to bring this product to the public?
The next steps are to secure funding and build the right team to get the product on the market.
What enhancements can you see making to this device down the road?
At this moment in time, the focus is getting the earring onto the market, but I hope in the future we can produce variants of the product to further improve the lives of T1Ds.
Since you have already had such great success with such an important device that can help so many, what do you see yourself working on next? In ten years?
Personally, I hope to see the Sense Earring through to market implementation, and I desire to continue developing productions that have a positive impact on people’s lives.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us, Tyra. We look forward to following your journey and wish you continued success!