PeaPods Mats Product Development

research and development on introducing wearable electronics to incontinance mats

Partners Zara Huntley, Garima Sood, Ash Logan
Faculty Lead Daniel Garrod, 
Head of Research Keith Doyle, Helene Day-Fraser
Material Matters Lab
 Material development and IOT integration into a 
wearable device
November 2019 - March 2020
Ongoing
The goal of this project is the implementation of new forms of R&D practice enabled by digital technologies and additive manufacturing methodologies. The primary areas of research include an iterative approach to the introduction of IOT, exploring an array of sensing capabilities to give the user more agency; experimenting with alternative materials that align with a more ecological approach; finding avenues of modularity through the use of digital fabrication methods. PeaPodsMats in collaboration with the Research Team approached the project by practice-led design inquiry.
My skills and experience are being utilized in in this project for the development of user research the inclusion of IoT technology into the PeaPodsMats. This page will focus on my efforts to date to develop user-friendly, machine washable, durable and long lasting electronics sensors to implement into the product. Our extended research on the product will involve the development of an application and a functioning prototype.
Using journey and empathy maps we highlighted user frustrations and ease of use. This became the jumping-off point to the interest space we focused our efforts on, impacting the final outcome by estimating the users thoughts on the existing product, and potential problems and successes they may have with the product. We landed on 4 major points.
Comfort
Social Pressures
Awareness/Education
Ease of Use
Competitive Analysis and IOT Precedent
Sensor Development and Testing
The mat currently consists of three layers of fabric: a layer of cotton terry cloth, layer of polyester batting quilted to the top layer, and a layer of brushed polyester coated with TPU for waterproofing, and edges fastened with bias tape. We saw an opportunity to use the batting layer as a layer of IoT sensors, likely making the sensor kit removable and water-resistent for washing purposes, and creating a durable sensor that can withstand machine was
To measure measuring the dielectric constant of water + fabric we made a simple moisture sensor, registering a percentage of moisture on copper tape. This became a placeholder to a potential IoT substitute that could trigger an application and produce user data from sensors such as incontinence frequency, sleep restlessness, accurate time of incontinence, and as the development of wearable technology expands the opportunity for reading data from urine samples in real time could be in place for this product. A consideration to be made when developing in this space is the electrical resistance of the fabric, and the amount of wicking- absorption of the material, as these factors could potentially produce a level of discomfort for the user.
The second most prominent form of data that we would want to be recorded by health professionals and caregivers is movement while sleeping. Bedwetting can be caused by nightmares, restlessness, as well as many other factors in ones sleep. Again using copper tape, this sensor is able to measure the location of pressure on the sensor, leading to a digital representation of the location of the user. We chose to make a simple touch capacitive touch sensor to pinpoint on a 3D matrix precisely the amount of movement, where they had been sleeping. These two sensor’s could be placed together in a modular package within the mat.
Using a plotter knife we were able to digitally design a more precise pattern to cut in the copper tape, this led to more accurate representations of data read by the sensor. This process also left better tolerances on future modular sensor mat packages.
When testing and analyzing the modular mat system of sensors, our team had concerns on ease of use for the user. Having to remove a sensor package from within the PeaPod mat before washing and cleaning could be time-consuming and can lead to product neglect, causing further damages to the mat. Prototype development then included a space around waterproofing sensors and explored creating a wearable type of electronic sensor that is bound to the mat itself. Using a mixture of 6mm carbon fibre strands and testing both clear silicone and as molding silicone (OMOO 30), we created prototypes to test the viability of this.

We created a series of conductivity tests with varying amounts of carbon and silicone adhering to fabric as shown above. Ideally, the lowest levels of carbon strands in a solution of carbon could then be then printed onto the fabric creating an accurate sensor which is also water resistant and durable.
Out of the tests made, the most viable product was the OOMOO 30 with three-gram carbon fibre mixture. This had the ability to hold 2.4 A with no issues. Moving forward I would like to attempt to adjust this mixture and get the smallest amount of carbon mixture for this material.
After our efforts and successes through sensor development, silicone printing, and my partners creation of bioplastics, our next venture is to push these elements together. We are aiming to create a bioplastic carbon sensor that will bond to the material, and ideally be 3D printed. This Would add dimensions to our sensors and create a stronger bond in the material and carbon conductivity.
Our tests were primarily bioplastic-carbon sensors bonding to wool and muslin. We attempted a mold, as well as running tests on durability and proof of concept. These prototypes were successful in that they all held conductivity, though shape and durability were a concern.
Unfortunately because of COVID-19 our development on this step came to a halt. The research and development of this project will continue September 2020, with future steps involving developing a functioning prototype while connecting wirelessly to an application on a smart device.
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