Product Design | 2017

Olive Ostomy Belt

How can we design a smart wearable for ostomates to improve leak detection and offer personal health data?

Client

Harvard Master of Design Engineering studio project

The Challenge

Ostomy care is an often overlooked aspect of medical care that affects hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. Ostomy surgery involves having part of the digestive system routed externally due to a colon-related illness, where excrement must be captured and disposed of manually. Leaks, skin irritation, and the erosion of self-confidence can heavily impact ostomates. Can we redesign and ease this experience to be more humane?

Involvement

Co-designed and engineered with Kenneth So

The Outcome

Within the scope of four weeks, Kenneth and I ideated and iterated on a prototype of Olive, a smartbelt for people with ostomies to detect for leakages through an Arduino moisture sensor. Vibration motor and alarm notifications can wake up a sleeping user before a leak causes a mess or skin irritation. In the prototype, a connected Bluetooth sensor transmits humidity and moisture data, and can be expanded upon in the future for a full ostomy management app.

Approximately 800,000 people in the U.S. are living with stomas as a result of surgeries treating IBD, Crohn's, colon cancer, and other colon-related diseases. While many physical concerns, such as keeping peristomal skin healthy and remaining sufficiently hydrated, require constant upkeep, we also identified important psychological health metrics that ostomates faced.

From our interviews, we developed a user journey of an ileostomate to show the cadence of ostomy appliance management required.

Our research led us to focus on developing a wearable solution to ease the process of ostomy management, focusing on 4 design principles:

  • Sexy: transform a process that can wear down a user's self-esteem into a product that is sleek and empowering

  • Functional: effective at leak detection and alerting the user

  • Versatile: adaptable to a wide variety of body and stoma types

  • Reliable: offering ease of mind and physical security in a portable package

Ergonomic demonstration of how the product can be worn

Proof-of-concept demonstration of Olive's leak detection alert

Fabrication process

Throughout the 4-week design sprint, we focused on:

  • Form factor inspired by high-fashion
  • Proof-of-concept leak detection across a disposable filter paper that could be cheap and allow for a reusable belt
  • Electrical prototyping with microcontrollers and protoboards

Electrical functionality

The belt uses 2 conducting wire coils separated by a piece of filter paper. When the paper is wet, the circuit will trigger a 3V vibrating motor and piezo-electric buzzer.

We used a Bluefruit Feather 32u4 microprocessor and a BME280 Humidity & Moisture sensor to transmit data via Bluetooth to a user's mobile phone.

In future iterations, we imagine a companion app that will not only alert at the time of a leak, but also log this data along with other important health statistics for ostomates.

Mock of a proposed ostomy support app

Final Product

The final product was the result of only a 4-week design sprint, and involved many iterations in functionality and form factor. In the future, we hope to adapt it to be even sleeker for possible daytime wear.