20 Nov 2018
World innovation news
Entrepreneurship & Management
The Internet of Things Supporting Contraceptive Treatment
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Although pill dispensers help to track weekly or monthly pill intakes, it is still possible to forget a pill. A start-up company at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has created a solution to remind women to take their birth control pills.
Project Study and Development
The team chose to monitor this type of treatment because it presents two problems. First, forgetting can lead to unwanted pregnancy. Then, if there is a delay, the time of the next intake must be carefully calculated. Before choosing to study the particular case of contraceptive pills, the team conducted surveys with health professionals and the general public. Their results showed that managing oral contraceptives stresses a lot of women. Therefore, the solution should address the practical and psychological aspects of a contraceptive treatment.
Aagya Mathur, a student at MIT Sloan School of Management who came up with the idea for the project, decided to design a better technology than the existing digital solutions. In June 2017, she launched a company named Aavia with cofounders Aya Suzuki, an MIT student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Alexis Wong, an Electrical Engineering graduate from the University of Hong Kong.
Mathur found that alarm-based applications are somewhat inefficient. For example, an alarm may sound when the person is busy. Postponement may lead to another missed pill. Applications that require users to confirm that a pill has been taken and to indicate the time are restrictive. The technology proposed by the company is more intuitive because it modulates the user’s behaviour through the Internet of Things.
Aavia, a Connected Case
The company sent the first beta models to be tested by some users. This version is available online.
The smart storage case connected to an application was designed in one of MIT’s Mechanical Engineering laboratories. The case is equipped with sensors that detect the presence or absence of pills in the 21 compartments of the pack. The system starts working as soon as the monthly pack is opened. It records the first intake by detecting that a pill has been removed from the pack. The pill pack must then be reinserted into the case to trigger the system and set it up for the next intake. The case automatically reprograms itself to remind the user of the next intake by sending notifications. Intake time can be set in advance. If a pill is taken before the pre-set time, the application does not send a notification since the case detects the emptied compartment. The system includes a time zone setting and can be adjusted for travel.
If the user does not take a pill on time, the application continues to send notifications every thirty minutes until the casing detects the empty compartment. The custom intake setting makes it possible to adjust the next intakes if there are delays.
Future releases will allow women to disable notifications during the placebo weeks. Placebos are meant as a “continuous” treatment to reduce the risk of forgetting. Reminder times will also be adaptable to user preferences and users will be able to change the 30-minute notification period. The current application allows users to view the hours and days of intake for one week. In a future release, the calendar will display the entire history. The team also plans to incorporate more user comment space.
Hanen Hattab is a PhD student in Semiology at UQAM. Her research focuses on subversive and countercultural arts and design practices such as artistic vandalism, sabotage and cultural diversions in illustration, graphic arts and sculpture.