You can build the world’s best reminder apps, and ingeniously packaged drugs in personalized pre-portioned packs. But at the end of the day, how can anyone know whether or not they actually swallowed the right pill at the right time?
Oviary ($79)–a new project on Kickstarter–is a taste of what experts call “medication adherence.” It’s a clamshell case built for women taking the pill. They simply place the pack inside, push one button to sync the case with a smartphone app via Wi-Fi, and then, every 24 hours, the case sends push notifications to remind the patient to take the medication.
Thus far, it’s just a fancier version of your average pill reminder app. But where Oviary is unique is that it tracks whether or not you’ve actually taken that pill by sensing when you opened the case. So while it still has no idea if you actually swallowed that pill versus absentmindedly leaving it near the kitchen sink, it can definitely see if you forgot to open the case in the first place. It then texts reminders until you open the case again. (If you totally forget the dose, radial LEDs on the case, which mirror each of the 21 or 28 pills in the pack, will point it out with a red glow.)
Researchers have toyed with smart, connected medicine bottles for a long time now. They’re a good enough idea, but tough to scale. Do you build a deposit system and clean the returned bottles of the trace drugs inside? Do you give customers a new, Bluetooth medicine bottle every time they fill a prescription? Does the customer have to pair the whole system with their phone again?
The Pill is unique in that it has such a distinct and established industrial design that seems built to be smart: birth control pills already come in a swappable blister pack that are often placed inside a clamshell case. Oviary just makes that clamshell case more intelligent, and gives you a good reason to reuse it. And so rather than pitching us on a strange or expensive device, Oviary is a seamless upgrade to both a piece of industrial design and a daily ritual that many people already have.
Having said that, while Oviary pops off its charging dock to technically be portable, its early generation hardware is almost smoke-detector-chunky, and nowhere near as sleek as the typical pill case. For an object that fits in a purse and is largely built with discretion in mind, a slicker bit of industrial design would have practical merit. Assuming Oviary hits its goals on Kickstarter, maybe that’s a 2.0 possibility.