This post is a review of the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon Bluetooth reader for the Abbott FreeStyle Libre Glucose System. The NightRider BluCon transforms your Libre into a continuous glucose monitor by automatically reading the NFC signal from your Libre sensor every 5 minutes and sending it to your phone or watch via Bluetooth. This allows you to automatically receive notifications such as when your sugars are going to high (hyperglycemic) or too low (hypoglycemic). You can also set alarms to notify you of these changes in your blood glucose.
As full disclosure: Ambrosia sent me the latest version of the Waterproof NightRider BluCon in January 2020, free of charge, to test and provide an open and honest review of the Bluetooth CGM reader for the FreeStyle Libre. I have continuously used the BluCon for the last two and a half months and have become a strong supporter of the system.
The review you are going to read is an unprejudiced review of the Ambrosia BluCon and in no way influenced by Ambrosia. For convenience, I have also included links to my Amazon Store. Amazon pays a small commission for any sales from these links.
My review of the Ambrosia BluCon reader will focus on the following areas:
Table of Contents
- What is the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon Device?
- What is included with the Ambrosia BluCon NFC Reader?
- How do you attach the Ambrosia BluCon Reader to your Freestyle Libre?
- What is the Battery Life of the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon Libre Reader?
- Bluetooth Reliability of the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon?
- Can I share my BluCon Readings with a Family Member?
- Is the Ambrosia BluCon Waterproof?
- The Ambrosia LinkBluCon App is available for iOS, Android, and Fitbit?
- What is the cost of the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon?
- What is the Warranty Period of the Ambrosia BluCon?
- Does Ambrosia NightRider BluCon Connect to Apple Watch?
- How is Customer Service with the Ambrosia BluCon?
- Final Thoughts and Room for Improvement
What is the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon Device?
The flagship product of Ambrosia, the NightRider BluCon is a re-usable Bluetooth reader for your Abbott FreeStyle Libre (FSL), Libre US 14 day, Libre 2 sensor and FreeStyle Libre Pro sensor, that reads the Libre NFC signal and transmits the glucose readings from your Libre to a mobile app every 5 minutes, enabling Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) on the similar to what you would have with Dexcom. Ambrosia officially describes the BluCon, as an NFC (Near Field Communication) to BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) electronic transmitter for the Abbott FreeStyle Libre.
Ambrosia NightRider BluCon works with FreeStyle Libre, Libre 2, Libre US 14 day, Libre Canada 14 day and Libre Pro sensors. The BluCon is compatible with iPhone’s, Android phones, iPod and Apple/Android watches.
To hear my thoughts about the benefits of using a Libre or Dexcom CGM to manage your diabetes, give this blog post a read. For more information on the FreeStyle Libre read my review here.
The NightRider BluCon is available in two versions:
- the original non-waterproof BluCon and
- New IP67 waterproof NightRider BluCon. I have been using the waterproof NightRider BluCon reader.
Reminder: Ambrosia apps and device are not FDA approved or your local equivalent. Hence, do not use the glucose readings to take any medical decisions.
What is included with the Ambrosia BluCon NFC Reader?
My Ambrosia WaterProof NightRider BluCon was shipped with:
- BluCon NFC Reader.
- Rest / Power pin – to turn on the device and reset Bluetooth as needed
- One piece of 2-sided tape
- 10 waterproof stickers as added protection of waterproof battery compartment
- One replacement door for the battery compartment
- Instruction manual
How do you attach the Ambrosia BluCon Reader to your Freestyle Libre?
The Ambrosia BluCon Bluetooth Reader is conveniently positioned directly on top of the FreeStyle Libre sensor. This allows for a very secure device and reliable readings of the NFC (Near Field Communication) of your FreeStyle Libre Device. As the BluCon is positioned immediately on top of the Libre Reader, I have never experienced any dropped or missed readings, with the exception of when the battery needed to be replaced.
However, as the BluCon reader sits on top of the Libre, this results in a much larger footprint for your Libre to get caught on clothing, door jams, and other common ways we knock, bang, pull and abuse our FreeStyle Libre sensors over its 10 to 14-day lifespan. That being said, you do get use to the increased size of your sensor and it quickly becomes a null issue.
There are several ways to attach your BluCon NFC reader to your Libre. Here is a quick overview of some of the options available to help secure your BlucCon reader to your FreeStyle Libre sensor:
- Double-Sided Tape – My BluCon came with one small piece of double-sided tape to secure the BluCon reader to my Libre Sensor. A tape similar to the Scotch Adhesive Mounting Squares may be a good option. My biggest concern with the double-sided tape was that I needed to temporarily remove my BluCon to replace the battery and it was difficult to remove the BluCon reader without disturbing my Libre.
- Velcro Strips – A reusable alternative to double-sided tape are round Velcro or hook and loop fasteners. My only concern with hook and loop fasteners is that they raise the BluCon from your Libre Sensor making the overall height or size of the BluCon reader that much higher.
- Put Tape overtop of both your Libre and BluCon Sensor – as Libre users we are well acquainted with using kinesiology tape, Patchabetes, or Tegaderm to secure our Libre and help it stay on for the full 14 days. Any of these options work equally as well for the BluCon. For more tips on keeping you Libre Secure for the 14-days see my Libre Adhesion Hints and Tips.
- BluCon Arm Band – Available from Ambrosia, the armband available in multiple sizes and colours helps protect both your FreeStyle Libre and BluCon.
What is the Battery Life of the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon Libre Reader
The replaceable battery in the Ambrosia BluCon uses a common CR2032 watch battery that can be conveniently purchased at any electronics, grocery, or pharmacy. I wear my BluCon 24/7 to allow me to get hi and low glucose warnings all day and night. Typically, I get about 2 and a half weeks of continuous use from my Ambrosia BluCon Libre reader before the battery needs to be replaced. The battery is easy to replace, requiring a small twist off of the waterproof cap. However, I would recommend that you replace the battery with each new sensor as the cap is challenging to remove while you are wearing the BluCon. After all, as the BluCon sits on top of our Libre, the number of times we need to disturb our Libre’s the better.
I admit, at first, I found the battery life disappointingly short, expecting more than two weeks of use out of a disposable Sony CR2032 battery. However, in comparison with other Libre Bluetooth readers on the market, this is typical. After all, increased battery storage would result in an increase in the size of the BluCon. A review of other devices in the market like MiaoMiao, one battery per 14-day Libre cycle seems typical.
Area for Improvement: My only area for improvement related to the Battery Life of the Ambrosia BlueCon Libre Reader is that it does use a disposable CR2032 battery. An improved version of the BluCon would have a rechargeable battery over the existing disposable CR2032. HINT: Amazon is the best place to buy CR2032 batteries in bulk, however, Ambrosia specifically recommends SONY CR2032 batteries for longest performance.
Bluetooth Reliability of the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon
I have had little or no connectivity issues with my NightRider BluCon. As of March 2020, I am using iOS version 1.1.21 of the official Ambrosia LinkBluCon app. Like other CGM readers for the FreeStyle Libre, the Ambrosia App needs to be continuously running on your iOS or Android device to be able to read your Libre Sensor. When the Ambrosia App is running, it reads your Libre Sensor every 5 minutes and sends the information via Bluetooth to your phone, watch, or tablet. The latest version also has a function to force the NightRider reader to send the latest reading to your phone without waiting for the 5-minute timer to elapse.
What happens if the Ambrosia App is not Running?
As I noted, the Ambrosia LinkBluCon app needs to be running for the BlucCon to read your Libre. This is a common requirement for all devices in the market. If your Ambrosia LinkBluCon App has not been running, the next time you start up the App, much like your Libre App and Reader. The BluCon will send the 15-minute Readings from your Libre to the App. Your Nightrider will continue to read your sensor every five minutes thereafter (as long as the App remains running).
HINT: It is important to remember, you will not receive any glucose warnings or notifications if your Ambrosia LinkBluCon app is not running.
Improved Bluetooth Reliability, Kudos to the App Development Team
If you read other reviews on the BluCon, connectivity issues are commonly listed. I need to give the Ambrosia App development team kudos. When I first received my Nightrider BluCon, I had serious concerns over the Bluetooth reliability of the BluCon and the LinkBluCon app. If you read other reviews, this was a common concern. Bluetooth reliability has been significantly improved since late 2019. More on the app list listed below.
Can I Share my BluCon Readings with a Family Member?
In addition to the LinkBluCon app for your iOS or Android device, you can share your BluCon readings with Caregivers to help them continuously monitor the glucose levels of their loved ones using their mobile phones – iPhone or Android using the FollowBluCon. The app provides Caregivers with data from patients who have invited them to follow their glucose readings through the LinkBluCon app.
Caregivers can view readings and notes pertaining to the last 30 days of a LinkBluCon user. To view the readings, the Caregiver needs to tap Readings on the home screen of the FollowBluCon app and then four horizontal lines displayed on the screen. The Caregiver can also view the LinkBluCon user’s daily graph and readings through this link.
Features in FollowBluCon include:
- Provides Caregivers with data from patients who have invited them to follow their glucose readings through the LinkBluCon app.
- Caregivers can see each patient’s readings, Notes, battery and connection status of NightRider, daily graphs as well as their target glucose range.
- Caregiver can modify target range for a patient so that he can receive notifications if the glucose readings are outside defined range
- Caregiver can stop following readings of a LinkBluCon user by turning OFF the follow option on the settings screen for that particular LinkBluCon user.
Is the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon Waterproof?
The Ambrosia NightRider BluCon comes in two versions, the original non-waterproof NightRider BluCon and the new IP 67 waterproof NightRider BluCon.
The FreeStyle Libre is designed to be water-resistant and worn while bathing, showering, swimming and exercising. The Libre website describes the Libre as water-resistant in up to 1 metre (3 feet) of water for a maximum of 30 minutes. The waterproof NightRider is defined as IP 67 waterproof.
What does IP67 mean?
The IP Code (or International Protection Rating, sometimes also interpreted as Ingress Protection Rating*) consists of the letters IP followed by two digits and an optional letter. As defined in international standard IEC 60529, it classifies the degrees of protection provided against the intrusion of solid objects (including body parts like hands and fingers), dust, accidental contact, and water in electrical enclosures. The standard aims to provide users with more detailed information than vague marketing terms such as waterproof.
The first digit of IP67, refers to how well the BluCon is protected from solid foreign objects – 6 representing DUST TIGHT: No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact. The second digit, 7 representing protection against immersion up to 1M in depth.
In other words, the BluCon is protected from dust and meets the same standards as the Libre sensor for up to 1 meter of water. This allows you to swim, shower, and play in the water with your waterproof Ambrosia BluCon.
The Ambrosia BluCon comes shipped with two waterproof features – the first one is a small o-ring around the battery compartment. The second waterproof feature is a clear adhesive sticker that you place on top of the BluCon reader and the batter compartment – my BluCon was shipped with 10 reusable stickers. This is recommended if you are going to be using the BluCon routinely submerging the Nightrider such as in a hot tub or swimming. I have not found any need for the sticker in day to day use showering with my BluCon.
The Ambrosia LinkBluCon App is available for iOS, Android, and Fitbit
I am an iOS user, so most of my comments are related to my experience with the iOS version of the LinkBluCon App. However, LinkBluCon is available for both Apple iOS and Android through the Apple and Google Play Stores. Ambrosia’s NightRider BluCon and LinkBluCon app users can also use Fitbit Ionic, Versa and Versa Lite watch to monitor their glucose levels and receive notifications when glucose readings are outside the target range.
The main reason Libre Users add an NFC reader such Ambrosia NightRider BluCon to their FreeStyle Libre system is to receive alarms or notifications of high or low glucose readings so that we can respond quickly with insulin correction or glucose to protect us from a potential severe hypoglycemia event. The app has the ability to give is visual notifications as well as audible as an alarm or even speech notification of our glucose readings.
The app also gives us a tabular display of our glucose readings and great export functionality.
My favourite feature is the quick glance of my glucose in on the app scream. Those familiar with iOS notifications, the app uses the typical notification number in the top right of the app to display your latest glucose reading.
Continued Development of the App
I need to give the Ambrosia App development team kudos. They are continuously updating and improving the iOS version of the app and are very responsive to user comments and suggestions.
If you feel there is a user experience design change that is needed or you are missing a feature, send the design team a quick note.
HINT: The Ambrosia team also has a beta program through Apple’s TestFlight where you can download the latest version of the App, provide comments and recommendations.
What is the cost of the Ambrosia NightRider BluCon
The NightRider BluCon is available in both a waterproof and non-waterproof version. The cost of each is:
- Non-Waterproof Night Rider BluCon – $110 USD (view here)
- Waterproof NightRider BluCon – $145 USD (view here)
At the time of this review (March 2020). the NightRider is also being shipped for a limited time, with an armband holder, a $30 USD value. Check with their online Support Chat for any specials.
What is the Warranty Period of the Ambrosia BluCon?
The NightRider comes with a 12-month warranty.
Does Ambrosia NightRider BluCon Connect to Apple Watch
Linking your phone to your Libre or NightRider BluCon is great, however, in many situations we are unable to carry our phones at work, school, or playing sports. The NightRider has two watch modes available for iOS devices: Display mode and Connect Mode.
Apple Watch Display Mode: In display mode, your installed Apple Watch App receives updates from the LinkBluCon app running on your phone. This requires your watch to be within Bluetooth range of your phone.
Connected Apple Watch Mode: After the initial setup of Ambrosia’s NightRider and LinkBluCon app on the iPhone, the user can change the mode to Apple Watch on LinkBluCon’s settings screen, this will switch the NightRider connection from the iPhone to Apple Watch and will start displaying glucose readings on Apple Watch without the phone.
Area for Improvement: As great as this feature is, I would not recommend it as the primary mode to read your BluCon sensor. From experience, it draws heavily on the Apple watch battery. Using my Apple Watch 4, I needed to recharge my watch after 12 hours, where my typical usage is about 1 and ½ days between charges. However, it is a great feature if you are out for a ride, cycle, or playing sports.
GOOD TO KNOW: If Apple Watch has a cellular connection, parents can install Ambrosia’s FollowBluCon app on their phone and after setup, will be able to see glucose readings updates of their child every five minutes.
How is Customer Service with the Ambrosia BluCon
I have had mixed feelings about Ambrosia Customer Service. When I first set up my Ambrosia BluCon reader I had some connectivity issues with my iPhone (note, these have since been resolved with an update to the App). I sent an email to customer service / technical support and the response was a request to join their beta app program without any explanation of what the program was or acknowledgement of my technical issue.
However, in the course of writing this review, I visited the Ambrosia Website searching for information on the latest cost and warranty information. The website has an integrated live chat program connecting to a customer service agent. I had a great chat with “Amy” in the chat app. Her responses were quick and concise. If I had to base my experience with Ambrosia on this experience alone, I would give them 4/5 stars (I rarely give anyone 5 stars).
Final Thoughts and Room for Improvement
Overall, I have had great success with using the NightRider BlucCon system to convert my FreeStyle Libre to a full CGM. As a reader, the BluCon is reliable and provides me with continuous readings from my FreeStyle Libre every 5 minutes. The visual and speech readings of my glucose readings and warning when my numbers are out of my target range or approaching hypo or hyper ranges are noticeable and draws attention to me as use and those around me if needed.
The LinkBluCon app development team is responsive and continuously working to make the best app possible for Android, iOS, and FitBit Ionic and Versa. Overall, I would recommend the BluCon to anyone that is looking to add continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) features to their FreeStyle Libre.
Where can the BlueCon Be Improved
Better Plastic for the Battery Cover
In 2 and a ½ months, I have already damaged the cover to the battery. It was stuck/jammed and trying to remove it with various coins and other devices to get to the battery literally stripped the slotted area. Fortunately, the BluCon was shipped with two covers. I would recommend that they look at making this piece with a harder or more rigid piece of plastic than the rest of the device.
Better Battery Life or Rechargeable Battery
The replaceable battery needs to be replaced about every two weeks. Although CR2032 can be purchased through online retailers like Amazon (Buy CR2032 Batteries Here) for about $0.60 (60 cents) a unit, it does feel like a waste. A rechargeable battery would be helpful for the BluCon. Improved battery use would also be helpful, this would limit how often we need to replace the CR2032 battery.
Special Offer From Ambrosia
As a bonus to our readers and as a thank you for taking the time to test and review their product, Ambrosia is offering $10 off the price of a BluCon for any purchase through Are We “Making you think?”. Use this special link to check out BluCon.
What are your thoughts about NightRider BluCon?
I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about the Ambrosia BluCon? How long have you been using the system? Have you used your BluCon to loop your insulin pump? Be sure to provide your comments below.