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New disposable smart diaper sends caregiver’s phone a message when a change is needed

A new disposable "smart" diaper developed by researchers at MIT can notify you when your charge's diaper is wet.MIT News (custom credit)/MIT News

A new smart diaper developed by researchers at MIT can send a message to parents via their smartphones or computers to let them know when their bundle of joy needs a change.

A small moisture sensor in the diaper contains a radio frequency identification tag, which transmits a radio signal to a nearby receiver when the diaper becomes wet. The receiver, which must be located within about three feet of the diaper, then notifies caregivers of the dirty diaper.

“This could prevent rashes and some infections like urinary tract infections, in both aging and infant populations,” said Sai Nithin R. Kantareddy, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and a collaborator on the project, in a university statement.


Researchers said the diaper could be especially helpful for nurses in neonatal units, or those who care for adults who use diapers. The study was published in the journal IEEE Sensors.

“Diapers are used not just for babies, but for aging populations, or patients who are bedridden and unable to take care of themselves,” said Pankhuri Sen, a research assistant in MIT’s Auto ID Laboratory, in the statement. “It would be convenient in these cases for a caregiver to be notified that a patient, particularly in a multibed hospital, needs changing.”

The sensor so far only indicates when a person has urinated. A university spokeswoman said researchers hope to improve the sensor at some point so it detects — ahem — solids. This is not the first smart diaper that has been developed. However, the MIT researchers say theirs is the best.

Many diapers already use strips that are printed on the outside of the diapers to show when they’re wet, but they can only be seen after removing pieces of clothing, MIT’s researchers said.

Some companies have looked into wireless wetness sensors that can be attached to the outside of the diaper. MIT’s researchers said such sensors are often bulky, not disposable, and need to be cleaned before they can be put on new diapers. They could also cost over $40.


“RFID tags, in contrast, are low-cost and disposable, and can be printed in rolls of individual stickers, similar to barcode tags,” researchers said. “The sensor costs less than 2 cents to manufacture, making it a low-cost, disposable alternative to other smart diaper technology.”

Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Caroline Enos can be reached at caroline.enos@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.