Smart underwear - Assistive technology developed for continence pad users

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

  • External authors:
  • Eleanor Van Den Heuvel
  • Felicity Jowitt
  • Adele Long
  • Jo Worthington
  • Marcus Drake
  • Maryann Slack
  • Bosco Fernandes


Continence problems are extremely common in the adult population and prevalence increases with age. Urinary system function can decline with age and concomitant diseases (congestive heart failure, Parkinson's Alzheimer's etc) and mobility problems are more prevalent. Any limitation in mobility is likely to cause difficulties with continence simply because the person finds it difficult to reach the toilet in time or transfer onto it when they get there. The most common method of managing ongoing continence problems is with the use of continence pads. Pads provide a hygienic and socially acceptable solution to incontinence but they are associated with problems that affect both physical and psychological well-being. The objective of this part of our project was to develop underwear that would alert the wearer to a leak from the continence pad. The purpose of this product is to assist the wearer to avoid leakage spreading to outer clothing and the seating surface. This would in turn help prevent the embarrassment of visible leakage and reduce the associated additional cleaning of clothes and soft furnishings. Content: This paper outlines the user-focused design process employed in creating the underwear and describes the technical development of the signaling system. The system comprises a wetness sensor and an electronic signaling unit. The sensor consists of tracks of conductive yarn that are stitched into the underwear. They are used to detect overspills of urine from the pad to the underwear. The signaling unit is a microcontroller-based unit that operates in deep sleep mode and is awoken by electrical contact between the conductive tracks. When triggered, the signaling unit responds by vibrating, alerting to the wearer to a pad leakage event. The paper also discusses user evaluation of the underwear. Results: The results of the technical development and the clinical evaluation are reported. Pilot user evaluation data indicates that prototype product function is acceptable and that the underwear has a role in aiding management of continence problems. Conclusion. The product will be a welcome addition to continence aids in the continence market.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEveryday Technology for Independence and Care. AAATE 2011
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Publication series

NameAssistive Technology Research Series
ISSN (Print)1383813X
ISSN (Electronic)18798071