Individual Entry

Bayer Contour USB

As a software engineer by trade and an insulin dependent diabetic by luck, I have longed for a 21st century solution to maintaining and tracking my blood sugar readings. I've had several glucometers over the years that could maintain a list of readings but none that possessed the ability to uploaded those readings to the computer. Transcribing blood sugar readings from a glucometer manually was both tedious and error prone. Several months ago, I came upon an advertisement for new glucometer that claimed to be capable of testing my blood sugar and also purported to be capable of uploading the results to a computer. That device is the Bayer Contour USB. Could this finally be the 21st century? It seemed that my wish had come true… or did it?

Generally, I am pleased with the device. It's small, it's sleek, and it's much easier to use and to read than any of my former glucometers. However, my delight with the hardware is deride by my discontent with its software. As far as I am concerned, this product is simply not-ready-for-prime-time with respect to its software.

When I first encountered the advertisement for the Bayer Contour USB, I was aghast to read that it was actually compatible with my Apple OS X based MacBook Pro. Could this really be true? The medical community has generally side-stepped the quality of the Apple Mac and the Mac OS X operating system, and has, instead, become the woebegone courtesans of the sleazy satan of all software — Micro$oft. This device, if this was true, was simply too amazing for me to pass up. I immediate found a supplier and I purchased this glucometer.

I would need to contact my endcrinologist to write a new prescription for the strips required for the device, so I only had the few test strips which shipped with the meter kit. I used those for about a week and then, I went to plug in the device to see how it would handle the uploading of my results. Well, much to my dismay, it would not. The software, which is contained on the device itself, would not run. It insisted that I needed to have a particular version, or later, of Java installed on my MacBook Pro. According to a $ java -version command, my Mac fulfilled the requirements that the Bayer Contour USB software was complaining about. Despite several attempts after reinstalling Java on my MacBook Pro, the glucometer's software persisted with its complaints. Oh well, I thought, it was nice idea but a complete waste of my money. I did, however, continue to use the meter for blood sugar readings.

About a week ago, I was scheduled for an appointment with the endocrinologist. I tried once again to get the readings from my Bayer Contour USB but those efforts were greeted with the same familiar complaint about the Java version installed on the Mac. So, I hit Google and decided to see if there were any pointers about this device since my last attempts about two months prior. Well, it seemed that Bayer had released new firmware for the device. Could it be that this software would fix my problem and make my device function for the purpose that spawned its purchase?

I downloaded the update after offering more personal information than I think was necessary to obtain it. Once I had it, I read the brief installation notes and proceeded to install the update. I inserted the Bayer Contour USB in the MacBook Pro and clicked on the begin update button. I received a message that stated that it would take 10 minutes to install the update. The little blue progress bar began to move to the right. About eight minutes later, the bar seemed to stall and refused to progress any farther. About an hour later, I decided something was amuck. I found a link to an on-line support chat application on the Bayer web site and I decided to give it a go. I soon found myself typing with some clueless script-reader in India. When I'd finally gotten to the point of blowing a geyser of mercury out of the top of the sphygmomanometer, I terminated the chat.

The firmware update was now about 2.5 hours along and the progress bar had not budged. I finally decided that I had nothing to lose, so I pulled the device out of the Mac. I wondered if I'd still be able to use it as just a glucometer. I took out a test strip, inserted it, and the device powered on as usual. I took out the "clicker" and lanced the side of one of my fingers to draw a drop of blood for testing. Much to my surprise, the device still functioned as the glucometer.

So, this is an open and public plea to Bayer: get your act together! This is some of the worst software I have encountered outside of Micro$oft. There is nothing that complicated, is there? Just give me access to the stored readings. I don't need any fancy colored GUI interface; a flat, CSV file would do. I just want to access my collected blood sugar samples, is that too much to ask?

Also, one other pet peeve with this device is trying to obtain prior readings. When the unit is turned on, it displays the last sample reading. If I click on the button next to the down arrow, it will go back to the day's prior readings just fine; however, that is when it then goes in the quirky-mode. For example, today is 10 Dec 2010. The display shows this as 10.12.10. When I click on the button next to the down arrow to continue back in history, the display goes to 9.12.10, 8.12.10, 7.12.10 and so on. All seemed normal enough but then, I had a WTF? moment! The readings were stepping back by months and not by days. I only had the device since September, so the lack of values for 8.12.10 and 7.12.10… stood out. Come on, Bayer; this isn't rocket science! How difficult is it to look back one calendar day?

Contour USB — Useless Software, Bayer!

Post Scriptum

It is rather sad and telling that a Google search for this meter turns up page after page after page of regurgitated press release blurb, and not a single blog or report from an actual user of their meter. Is Bayer buying the press to push their device? Bayer — and this meter — would be better off if it spent its advertising dollar to hire some real software programmers that could spell Mac OS X.

Postquam Post Scriptum

It seems that I have not been the only Mac OS X user duped by Bayer's claims for their Bayer Contour USB. Here is a forum thread on the DiabetesForums site discussing the problems other diabetics have experienced with this device. It's truly sad that a company, such as Bayer, would take advantage of individuals with a disability — and diabetes is recognized as a disability — to make a fast buck!

Reader Comment

Ugh.. I’ve had the same problems with this meter. I was really looking forward to using it. Right now I’m trying to reverse engineer the thing so that I can get my data off of it and do the data analysis myself.

by: Rich Nistuk on 22-Sep-2011 01:33


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