In wearable technology, menstrual health often feels like an afterthought. Case in point: Fitbit, the first major wearables manufacturer to add period tracking to its platform, did so in 2018, 10 years after launching its first device. So, in the age of smartphones and smartwatches, is it any surprise that people are still using menstrual products that haven’t changed much in the past 90 years? Not really, but that may change soon. The smart menstrual cup Emm is currently in beta testing. If all goes well, the product could be launched as early as this year.
what exactly is all smart menstrual cup? In the case of Emm, it’s a suite centered around a wearable device that looks like a ketchup cup shaped like a shuttlecock. The reusable cup is made of medical-grade silicone and contains biosensors known to be able to measure metrics such as volume, flow rate, cycle length and regularity. In addition to overt fertility information, these indicators may be helpful for people with difficult-to-diagnose conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. Inserted with a tampon-like applicator, the cup’s design is meant to create a “dynamic seal” that adjusts to fit any body shape. The cup connects to an app that automatically tracks your flow. and Users are notified when capacity is approached. (It can also generate a downloadable PDF so you can share your concerns with your doctor.) It also comes with a portable sanitizer that uses UV to sanitize your cups on the go.
“It was the first lockdown period and we were looking at the period product segment. I thought it was ridiculous that we are in 2020 and that these products are still leaking, still so inconvenient, and really unsustainable with massive landfill problems around the world,” says Emm CEO Jenny Button. “People who menstruate ~ no In 20 years, we will be using this product.”
While Button came up with the idea for the product, she enlisted Chris van Kempen, then a Dyson engineer and now chief design officer at Emm, to bring it to life. in a phone call with The Verge, Kempen described several sensing features that differentiate Emm from other existing period-tracking techniques. First of all, the cup has a capacitive sensor that can measure the fullness and heaviness of your period and detect whether or not the cup is inside your body. The cup also has an internal frame so the user can easily break the seal on the base for a more controlled removal.
If you’ve never had a period, it can be hard to understand why all of this is so exciting. Many people prefer the traditional menstrual cup, but it can be intimidating for beginners. The insertion and removal process is not as simple as sticking a pad to your underwear or pulling on a tampon string. In many cases, it takes a lot of trial and error. Another factor is finding the best menstrual cup for your body type. For example, a person with a low cervix may need a shorter cup than a person with a high cervix. Rinsing used cups in public toilets can also cause anxiety, and proper care includes boiling cups between cycles. Pads and tampons are easy to use, but they can be expensive, uncomfortable, and take up a lot of space in landfills. Is it a smart, reusable device that’s easy to carry, records your flow, alerts you to potential irregularities, tells you when to empty, and is suitable for everyone? It’s the holy grail of hygiene products.
“Every single element of the product is solving an existing problem,” says Button. Emm isn’t about to end the day with Bluetooth in a cup, as is the case with other femtech devices. Button says the purpose of Emm’s whole drive is to create positive user experiences that benefit not only health insights into your cycle over time, but also in your daily life. “For example, we’re not going to put some sensors in with tampons. It is much more intentional.”
With a thirst for reproductive health data and insights, it’s easy to see why. The US Congress did not mandate the inclusion of women in clinical studies until 1993. Prior to that, one study found that women were “expensive test subjects because of their chaotic and fluctuating hormone levels.” The result is huge gender health disparities and poor health care.Menstrual health today is understudied compared to other gender-specific conditions such as prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.
Researchers and tech companies have seen wearable technology as an opportunity to turn that around. Or they did until the Supreme Court was overturned. Law vs. Wade last year. Now, at least in the US, health data privacy, especially reproductive health data, takes on a new meaning. For all the good things a product like Emm can do, the question remains whether menstruating people will trust that their data won’t be used against them.
When asked about data privacy, Button said Emm’s apps, sensors and servers are built in a way that prevents the company from accessing biometric or identifiable user data. “if Law vs. Wade-Style case came to the company [law enforcement] If you say, ‘Give me your user data,’ we can’t fulfill your request because we don’t store data that way.”
But even if all of this passes, there’s no guarantee that Emm will hit the market. Health tech gadgets tend to end up being bluffs, and this isn’t the first time a smart menstrual cup has been on the market. A Kickstart attempt was made in 2015, but like many Kickstarter projects, it never materialized.
Button says the company is currently beta testing Emm and expects to release it in 2023. There’s no word yet on pricing, but it plans to “serve as many groups as possible and their spending habits.” And Button hopes to take Emm to global markets someday, but will focus on the US, UK and European markets first. It also helps the company itself secure $1 million in seed funding, as well as a formal partnership with the University of Cambridge for its recent biosensor development.
It’s impossible to say whether or not Emm will revolutionize menstrual products until you can actually buy them. That said, it’s encouraging to see it. who We are thinking about how to make sanitary products suitable for the 21st century. Even if some political agenda threatens to push reproductive autonomy into the past.