Incontinence is a problem for the very young and the very old, as well for patients with certain conditions or following surgery (such as removal of the prostate). Infants don’t notice it for the most part, but it can be a frustrating and embarrassing problem for adults and it can make life more difficult for their caregivers. While smart diapers can provide alerts after an incident occurs, preventing those incidents in the first place could improve the lives of everyone involved.

Triple W is a company that has developed a product called DFree. This is a sensor that is worn outside the body, using ultrasound to monitor the volume of urine in the subject’s bladder. The data is analyzed, and alerts can be issued to either the subject or a caregiver to indicate that it’s time to use the toilet. The alerts are sent to a smartphone. The result is that subjects can regain control over a very personal aspect of their lives, giving them a renewed sense of independence and confidence. And the system can help caregivers monitor their subjects without intrusive physical inspection of diapers. The company has announced that the device will be available in the U.S. later this year.

This device is an excellent example of how wearable technology can address a specific impairment encountered by many seniors, and offer a corrective solution. Without such a system, many seniors or their families might feel that that only option is to put them in a managed care situation. Instead, this could make it practical for them to continue to live independently. Also, we are facing a critical shortage of caregivers for the elederly — both paid and unpaid — in the U.S. and around the world, and devices such as this can make their work far more efficient and manageable.