Researchers Professor Takayasu Sakurai and Professor Takao Someya from the University of Tokyo have developed a flexible, disposable sensor for diapers.
The sensor, which can detect moisture, humidity and pressure, is printed on plastic film and will transmit information wirelessly. At some point, the developers expect that their devices could be created through inkjet printing, which would lead to a reduction in manufacturing cost.
Next steps for the researchers include improving the reliability of the battery and reducing the power consumption of the sensors.
MobiHealthNews has previously covered different kinds of smart diaper technologies, and while those were targeted toward babies, the researchers in Tokyo said they will primarily target their smart diapers toward adults, given Japan's rapidly aging population. This would make the technology useful to caregivers of the elderly.
“If sensing is done electronically, you can tell simply by coming close to the wearer — without unclothing him or her,” Someya told the Japan Daily Press.
At the mHealth Summit last year, Jack Young, Director of the Qualcomm Life fund said that in Japan, adult diapers are outselling baby diapers because of the aging population. He added that in the United States, the aging population is catching up with Japan’s and that startups will begin to make more products that address this growth.
Another company, Pixie Scientific, which makes sensor laden diapers, launched a pilot study for babies at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital last fall, and around the same time the company also initiated a pilot study for adults at several assisted living facilities with its new product, Pixie Briefs.
So far the sensors that have been developed in Tokyo measure moisture so caregivers know when to change the patient, but Pixie Scientific's diapers, for both adults and babies, also alert the caregivers when the sensors detect a urinary tract infection, prolonged dehydration, or developing kidney problems.