Blog Post

Intelligent Pill Containers Tell You (and Facebook Friends) When It’s Time for Meds

cap_onwhiteAs I went through the ShowStoppers event last night here at CTIA in Las Vegas, I spent more time with the attendees than the exhibitors. These shows are certainly about the tech, but meeting people you’ve only interacted with online is part of the experience as well. The other reason I only made a cursory round of the products and services was that I’d seen nearly all of them before. Plenty of great companies to be sure, but very few with something I hadn’t already seen in person or read about some time ago from most of the two dozen exhibitors in attendance. There was one, however.

I had actually heard about GlowCaps in the past, but last night I got to spend 15 minutes with David Rose, the CEO of Vitality Inc. David told me everything I wanted to know about these network-connected medicine containers and the  GlowCaps Connect service.

The smarts of the GlowCaps are the twist-on caps, hence the name “GlowCaps.” They fit on a basic, cylindrical pillbox, but there’s nothing basic about them. Each GlowCap is filled with a 900MHz wireless chip from Texas Instruments (s txn), for example. When you get medication with a GlowCap, the device is programmed at the pharmacy with the time and frequency for your medication. The cap waits for the specified time, then begins to flash little LEDs to remind you to take your meds. But maybe the cap isn’t somewhere in plain sight, so if it senses that you missed your scheduled dosage, it moves from a visual to an audible cue after one hour. The GlowCap will play a rising crescendo in hopes of capturing your attention for the next hour.

That’s great, but what if after two hours you still haven’t taken your pills? Here’s where it gets interesting: The GlowCap will call you on the phone. OK, perhaps not literally, since it has no speech technology, but you get the idea. The device initiates contact by using the wireless technology to notify a centralized monitoring system where you configure the alert methods. Phone calls are an obvious one, but David showed how social networking can help in this area as well — you can configure the GlowCap Connect to tell your Facebook friends that you’ve missed taking your pills, for example. Just think: You can have close friends and family help keep you on track with your medicine with this method. But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s pull your doctor into the picture.

When your doctor writes you a prescription, it’s a one-way communication. He or she orders up some meds for you and you hit the pharmacy. At no point after that does your doctor generally know if you’re taking the medicine as prescribed. GlowCaps can help with that, provided you have a Google Health account. The devices can send data in to Google Health (s GOOG) and you then have the option of sharing that with your doctor. Making it even easier for your doctor (and yourself), the GlowCaps can even call in their own refill to your pharmacy. It’s a complete loop of information between you, your pharmacy and your doctor, all thanks to the intelligent usage of a smart little chip in a pillbox top.

I asked David what requirements were needed to make GlowCaps work. My thought was that the target audience might not even have Internet service in the home or a computer, for that matter. He told me that there are a number of gateways with which the wireless GlowCaps will work. You could use a computer and home Internet connection, but there are options for folks that only have a standard phone line as well. All in all, I came away impressed. And since I’m getting older and will inevitably be taking more medications later in life, I liked what I saw.