DFree, a smartphone-connected wearable for incontinence, launches in US

The device uses an ultrasound sensor and an algorithm to alert users to a full bladder.
By Jonah Comstock

San Diego-based Triple W has launched a new wearable connected health monitor in the United States, focused on urinary incontinence. The sensor, called DFree, uses an ultrasound sensor to monitor changes in bladder size. Then proprietary algorithms translate that data into information about when a user should head to the bathroom.

“DFree is designed to help individuals with incontinence improve quality of life and enable independence, as well as help reduce the burden for the caregivers,” Atsushi Nakanishi, president and CEO of Triple W, said in a statement. “Whether you want to attend a concert, enjoy an afternoon with your grandkids or help a senior parent or loved one who needs extra time to travel from one place to another — you don’t have to worry about finding a bathroom on time.”

Why it matters

Incontinence is a widespread but underreported problem, because of the social stigmas involved. The NIH estimates it affects 500 million people worldwide and US retail sales of adult diapers totaled $2 billion in 2016. That market is only growing as baby boomers age.

Triple W’s product could offer an alternative to diapers or pads for some adults. It’s been in use in senior care facilities in Japan and Europe since 2017, the company says.

DFree, which will retail for $499.99, consists of a sensor secured to the body with medical tape and a small receiver that clips to the wearer’s belt. The receiver weighs 2.5 ounces and has a rechargeable battery that lasts about 24 hours.

The device sends data to an iOS app (Android is coming soon, the company says) which can be set to notify the wearer when their bladder is, for instance, 70 percent full. The user can then discretely get up to go to the bathroom.

The trend

Despite the size of the market, only a small number of companies have tried to apply digital health technologies to this problem. In 2015, a small startup called Lir Scientific, helmed by a Basis Science alumna, announced a very similar product called Brightly. But Brightly appears to be out of business as of 2016 and never brought its product to market.

Another company, PeriCoach, is addressing certain types of female urinary incontinence through a digitally-enabled pelvic floor exerciser. That product has been on the market in the United States since it received FDA clearance in 2015.