Apps / Health

DOT wants to bring simple family planning to your smartphone

Dynamic Optimal Timing uses a proprietary algorithm to assess an individual woman's chance of pregnancy on each day of her cycle.

Leslie Heyer presenting DOT at DC Tech Meetup #40. (Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

Cycle Technologies wants to use simple, attractive and streamline tech solutions to bring a woman’s reproductive health right into her own hands. Dynamic Optimal Timing (DOT) is the company’s newest endeavor — a family planning method and eponymous smartphone app that is the result of years of work in the field.
The DOT app uses complex back-end statistics to allow women to plan or prevent a pregnancy using just their period start dates. Thus, in the legion of contraception options that exist, DOT falls into a category known as fertility awareness.
However, DOT aims to go beyond past fertility awareness methods in its simplicity and utility. “We know that women are attracted to [family planning] methods that are simple,” Cycle Technologies founder Leslie Heyer said. So the DOT app only requires that a woman document her period start date, alleviating the need to check other symptoms such as body temperature or other physiological symptoms.

The DOT app interface.

The DOT app interface. (Screenshot)

DOT is also flexible enough to customize fertility information to an individual woman’s cycle lasting anywhere from 20 to 40 days. This is a departure from past fertility awareness methods using period tracking that followed a “fixed formula” for cycle length.
In many ways, the DOT app sounds and feels like your run-of-the-mill period tracking app. But the team is going to great lengths to communicate that it is not only that — as the website proudly declares, the DOT app “is the only period tracking app that you can use to effectively prevent pregnancy or plan a pregnancy.”
So how is this possible? How is Dynamic Optimal Timing different?
From the user experience perspective, the answer is not readily apparent. The magic happens behind the scenes, in a proprietary algorithm created by Cycle Technologies.
To create DOT, the company “worked with researchers to conduct an advanced statistical analyses using data from the World Health Organization as well as U.S. data sets,” Heyer told “Through computational modeling we were then able to determine the best way to implement this information so that it can be both highly effective and work for as many women as possible.”
Indeed, DOT has been shown to be 97 percent effective using computer modeling. A full-scale efficacy test will begin next year.
Heyer admits that overcoming a bias towards the fertility awareness method as ineffective is a “major challenge” for DOT. However, Cycle Technologies has a lot of experience working in this area.
The company began its work in 2002 by helping the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University bring their CycleBeads product to market. Cycle Technologies also worked with the TwoDay Method. CycleBeads has been used by approximately 4 million women around the world, with 95 percent efficacy in full-scale testing. The TwoDay Method, meanwhile, boasts 96 percent efficacy (both percentages refer to efficacy with perfect use).
Furthermore, Heyer hopes the DOT app will win over users by being simple yet highly effective (again, full-scale efficacy tests are still outstanding). “Women are willing to take on being responsible [for their reproductive health],” Heyer says, “but they don’t want to be overwhelmed.”
The DOT app has been downloaded about 50,000 times since its launch in mid-August, according to Heyer.

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