Insulin App Restricted By Google SMS Rules

John Lister's picture

The makers of an app that can alert parents when a diabetic child is at risk say Google's rules are making it harder to use the app. Play Store rules designed to stop malware mean the app can't send text messages directly.

The app is called CamAps FX and works with medical devices to operate an "artificial pancreas" for type-1 diabetes, which is a hereditary condition. It connects to a glucose monitor and an insulin pump, constantly monitoring glucose levels and then delivering insulin as necessary. (Source: camdiab.com)

The BBC reports that while it's suitable for adults, the app is particularly useful for young children who might struggle to keep on top of manually monitoring and managing their condition. To help with this, the app can also send SMS text messages to parents or other responsible adults if glucose levels are unusually high or low. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

SMS Messaging Blocked

That's proven problematic when it comes to distributing the app through the official Google Play Store. Google rules significantly restrict an app's access to a phone's SMS text messaging, the idea being to stop apps that might hijack the messaging, for example to send bogus links to contacts or to message premium rate numbers that can charge the user's phone service bill.

The maker of the app say it took them two years to even get the app into the Play Store because Google said the text messaging feature was not a "core function" and thus wasn't allowed. The makers had to distribute it through the Amazon app store, which is less prominent and can be off-putting for some phone users.

Costly Restriction

Now the app is in the Play store, Google has restricted the messaging. The app can only directly send alerts to Bluetooth, which only works when the recipient's phone is very close by.

The app can't directly send SMS messages from the phone and instead has to route them via a web-based service. That brings a cost for every message for the app operators, threatening the financial viability of the service.

What's Your Opinion?

Should Google rethink its policy? Is this a necessary restriction to prevent malware? Should apps be allowed to user SMS messaging if the user explicitly gives informed permission?

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Comments

Dennis Faas's picture

I'm not sure why they can't send emails instead of SMS, or re-route the SMS texts to have the app's central server deliver SMS texts instead of through the app directly. Optionally, they could set up a client app for the parent that messages between the child's monitoring app.