Microsoft has hosted the Imagine Cup every year for the past 15 years. The Cup is where students around the globe learn how to pitch a product and compete for the opportunity to win prize money to fund their ideas—and potentially earn a consultation with Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella. Real innovation comes out of the Imagine Cup, and many of these ideas go on to get venture capital funding and become full-scale products.
As a Type 1 diabetic for nearly 25 years, I was especially excited for the opportunity to interview this year’s Imagine Cup winners, Team X.Glu, in their home country of the Czech Republic. This team of three— Tomáš Pikous, Barbora Suchanová and Marek Novak—created a hardware, software, and gamification solution to help children with diabetes (and their parents!) succeed at managing their disease and improve their overall health. As part of the Imagine Cup grand prize, this week the team met with CEO Satya Nadella via Skype to discuss the future of their product, and he was especially excited about the fact that they’ve created a product that is both highly functional and life changing for its target market.
The learning opportunity was mutual. Team X.Glu shared how they’re tackling market penetration and how each of their areas of expertise—Tomáš’s software architecture, Barbora’s web and mobile development, and Marek’s medical hardware design—brought their solution to life. And, of course, they came prepared to ask the CEO questions spanning AI in healthcare to mastering and memorizing big speeches.
“We really enjoyed the mentoring session; it was very inspiring. Satya mentioned good points regarding the business side of the project,” Barbora said.
When Tomáš asked about the impact of artificial intelligence in the healthcare industry, Satya encouraged the team, “Think of AI not in isolation but as part of a workflow.” He and Team X.Glu talked about the importance of smart notifications driven by machine learning to enable and improve care, an innovation that compliments hardware and gamification instead of outshining it.
And his advice for memorizing that important speech? “Don’t try to memorize it all.” Then came a personal trick many engineers can relate to: “Just like how you would think about a database schema, my talk would have a schema so I would know the entities, I would know the properties, and that's how I would recall it.”
A closer look at the solution
Though Type 1 diabetes is also sometimes historically called ‘juvenile’ diabetes, I was diagnosed at the age of 20. Since I was an adult at the time, I was better able to cope with the overwhelming experience and do what I needed to do to keep my diabetes in check. I understood the implications of not following my protocol.
To be clear, there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes. There is only effective maintenance, and you won’t really know how you’re doing until years later. For me, life means checking my blood glucose levels dozens of times a day, eating right, exercising, counting every gram of food, and balancing insulin doses. If I don’t stay on top of it, I’m essentially guaranteed to deal with host of future problems like blindness, kidney failure, cardiovascular issues, neuropathy, and more. I think I do a good job of doing all the right things. I’ll let you know in twenty more years! But imagine being diagnosed as a young child, a teenager, or even as an infant. Imagine you are a parent of a child with diabetes (maybe you are!) trying to get him or her to comply with the steps needed to stay healthy. These are hard and scary problems, and they’re exactly what Team X.Glu set out to solve with their end-to-end solution.
It starts with a glucose meter for modern times—it’s slimmer than any meter I’ve ever seen (small enough to slip into a wallet), streamlined, Bluetooth connected, and can be skinned with a variety of colors and patterns to make it more appealing and fun. Uniquely, as a nod to both simplicity and cost, X.Glu’s meter has no screen or buttons! The results are seen and managed on a smart phone app, where kids interact with a game interface and are rewarded with points for taking the actions they need to take daily. Points can be converted into prizes by parents, and the game interface makes complying with doctor’s orders more enticing. The third element is the Microsoft Azure cloud-connected web interface where parents and doctors can see exactly what’s happening with the child’s glucose levels, daily activity, and compliance, as the smart phone app is auto-synced to the cloud when the phone is online.
See Team X.Glu in action
What better way to learn more about the X.Glu solution than to hear from the team directly? Check out this short video interview we did just last week in Prague to learn more about Tomáš, Barbora, and Marek’s experience with Imagine Cup and their plans for the future.
Moving forward, Team X.Glu has momentum for making a chronic condition easier and fun to manage, and we can’t wait to see their impact on the world. As Satya put it, “You're going to have amazing impact for the kids who need it the most. The fact that you're creating a solution for them to lead healthier lives is going to be one of the most fulfilling things.”
If you’re a student (or know a student) with a great idea to change the world, now’s the time to sign up for this year’s Imagine Cup. As a competitor, you’ll get to solve hard problems, meet other student innovators, and potentially win big. This year the prize value of cash, travel and Azure credits totals more than $700,000, so sign up now!