ABU DHABI // Four UAE cyclists will join an international pack on a 2,100-kilometre European tour that will test smartphone technology designed to help manage diabetes.
The four Etisalat workers will provide blood-sugar readings on the 13-day tour from Brussels to Barcelona, which is also being staged to raise awareness of the disease.
Faisal Alreyaysa, 29, an Emirati working at Etisalat’s carrier and wholesale services in Dubai, will be tackling the final and hardest leg of the journey with his cycling partner – through the Pyrenees mountains.
For Mr Alreyaysa, the cause is personal.
“A lot of people are suffering from diabetes,” he said. “The majority of my family who are aged more than 40 are suffering from diabetes.”
Up to 36 riders in the mHealth Grand Tour will be taking part in a live clinical study on the effects of days of exercise on blood- glucose levels in people with Type 1 diabetes, and in non-sufferers.
The event is being run by the global mobile trade association GSMA and the International Diabetes Federation.
The volunteers will wear glucose monitors that are attached to the skin and transmit data.
As they cycle, a bio-harness will take their heart rates and a small computer will record cycling statistics such as speed.
The data will be transmitted to the riders’ smartphones, allowing them to track their health and performance, and to a web portal where it will be available for analysis by a team at Newcastle University, in northern England.
“Gathering and transmitting healthcare data wirelessly demonstrates that mobile-phone technology can be used in the remote diagnosis, treatment and long-term monitoring of this debilitating disease in hospitals all over the world,” said Ahmad Julfar, chief executive of Etisalat Group.
Mr Alreyaysa and the three other UAE riders were chosen from more than 500 applicants from Etisalat’s 15 international operations including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tanzania and Sudan.
They will be joined by five other Etisalat workers from abroad.
At the start of this month, 35 gathered in the UAE and underwent physical and psychological tests before the final team was selected. The chosen riders will each do a different leg of the route.
Sara Coppo, senior manager for Etisalat Group Commercial living in Dubai, will cycle through France, with another cyclist covering about 550km in three days.
Mrs Coppo, 43, from Italy, said she wanted to represent her company in a good cause and set an example to her children, aged 2 and 6.
“It’s an opportunity to teach them that if you want to do something, you just need to make a big effort to get it and you can get anything you want,” she said.
Abdul Aziz Al Sawaleh, Etisalat Group chief human resources officer, led recruitment of volunteers from across its operations.
“In participating in this cycle ride, our staff are standing up and showing that they, too, want to contribute to the global fight against diabetes,” Mr Al Sawaleh said.
“Not only are they raising awareness in their communities and pursuing more active lifestyles, they are making a tangible contribution to developing real solutions to the disease.”
Jeanine Vos, the GSMA’s executive director of mHealth and education, explained how mobile technology could help in monitoring a diabetic person’s condition.
“Vital stats could be sent across a network and then shared with relevant people, whether that’s their doctor, whether that’s their carer, or maybe shared back to themselves so they can track information over time,” Ms Vos said.
Among its other benefits, the system allows doctors to send advice back to their patient, and an alert can be set up to tell a diabetic that their blood-glucose levels have dropped.
The tour starts on September 5.