Verily Life Sciences has filed a patent application for a “smart diaper” carrying a sensor for detecting and differentiating between feces and urine. The diaper would also contain a transmitter capable of wirelessly communicating whether waste is present to a separate device via Bluetooth, WiFi, or other means.
The patent application, , was filed by Verily in October 2016 and published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on April 19, 2018. It has not yet been granted.
Integrated waste sensors for diapers are already available, and can take the form of a color-sensing strip, an alarm, or a wireless notification, the company . None of these, however, have the capacity to distinguish between types of waste, and approaches that do differentiate are much less feasible.
“Sensing devices that separately determine whether urine or feces is present in a diaper have been developed, but they are large, expensive, reusable sensors that attach to the exterior of the diaper, which is inconvenient and less functional for use by caregivers,” the company wrote in the application. “Accordingly, there is much room for significant advancement in the technology in order to lower the cost and enhance the convenience and functionality thus making them a more affordable and reliable option.”
The integrated sensor described in the application would include at least one pair of conductive elements that would be placed within the diaper’s absorbent material. Accompanying this could be a moisture sensor that would initiate measurement of conductivity whenever moisture is present, a temperature sensor and accelerometer intended to help differentiate between waste, and a power source.
These would all be connected to a control circuit, which measures the conductivity, determines the presence and type of waste, and wireless transmits a signal indicative of the waste. Figures included in the application indicate that the major components of the smart diaper would be contained in a small housing placed on the outside of diaper itself.
According to the application, this signal could be received by a separate device that would generate an alert corresponding to the presence of fecal or urine waste.
“Transmitter may be any suitable transmitter configured to wirelessly transmit a signal or a plurality of signals to a remote device (e.g., a smart phone, a smart watch, a computer, etc.) using one or more wireless communication methods. These one or more signals transmitted be transmitter may be received by a remote device or other device, which may be recorded and the event(s) (e.g., defecation and/or urination) may be catalogued,” the company wrote in the application. “… Although described in relation to use with a baby, it is understood that the diaper sensor of the present disclosure described herein may be employed with other individuals besides and may also be employed with animals.”
Verily, the Alphabet subsidiary formerly known as Google Life Sciences, has been steadily increasing its presence in healthcare and wellness. Since receiving an $800 million investment from a Singapore investor in early 2017, the company has debuted a health-tracking Study Watch for use in clinical research, and is one of the nine participants in the FDA’s precertification program. Earlier this week, a report surfaced that the company has also been working on a device designed to painlessly collect the wearer’s blood.