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Creating the Uploader

October 2nd, 2014 | Kent Quirk

This is a joint blog post by our design lead, Sara Krugman, and our engineering lead, Kent Quirk.

We recently announced that Tidepool is in a partnership with JDRF to produce a “Tidepool Uploader” for diabetes devices. What is that? Why should you care?

We need easier access and tools to learn from our diabetes data – people with diabetes, researchers, doctors, and device manufactures all need better data. So how do we get it?

Step 1: Upload. It should be simple, but it just isn’t. Currently, uploading is the biggest blocker to helping us see and learn from our data. It is just too hard. Fitbit, Nike FuelBand, Strava, etc, have been miles ahead of diabetes devices with this, so in some ways they have shown how it should be done.

We are building a system that will let you run one application and plug in any supported device, and we’ll upload the data to our cloud automatically. No more wrestling with each device’s funky drivers, funky software, Java plug-ins, the wrong kind of computer, and user flows that feel like you have been spun around 30 times.

While we are making it easier “to access and integrate data from various T1D devices and present them in the context of a person’s daily activities” (thank you JDRF:)) the uploader’s primary goal is to make the act of uploading easier from any device and any desktop computer.

The guidelines and the constraints for designing the uploader were quite clear from the beginning; interactions like these are something we already know how to do. The technology constraints needed a bit more sorting out, given the state of desktop and web technology today.

Considering all our constraints, we’ve decided that our best solution was to build a Chrome app. Chrome apps look and feel like desktop apps, but they’re built like webapps (with HTML and JavaScript). They can also be updated easily and have access to many hardware capabilities like the USB ports. Sadly, the setup of Chrome apps is still a problem for users who don’t already have Chrome installed, but it’s a good first step for most people.

Another thing we’ve done is try to keep the device support as separate as possible from the application, so that it’s easy to add new devices as we build them.

If you’re interested in following along, the development (like all of Tidepool’s work) is going on in the open. You can check it out at our chrome-uploader GitHub repository.

It’s going to look something like this:

Tidepool Uploader for Blog