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It’s hard not to make this sound whimsical, but a Dutch “femtech” startup just raised $3 million (€2,5M) to put sensors in women’s panties. At first, we’re wondering, has the world gone completely mental? But the company behind is actually trying to solve a serious issue for women: urine loss through bladder control.
With the recent investment of $3 million, LifeSense Group wants to make a splash in the market of women’s health technology. Or, “femtech”, as the startup dubs it. This latest sum, received from an established Danish entrepreneur, brings the company’s investment to a total of $5 million since the startup’s inception in 2012.
“Over the past few months, we have had several investment offers but this investor provides the perfect match for our company,” Dr. Valer Pop, founder, and CEO of LifeSense Group, stated. “He will support to scale and professionalize LifeSense Group, a key element in the company’s growth phase.”
LifeSense Group produces what they call a “women’s pelvic healthcare product”: Carin . It’s a fancy way to describe panties with sensors in it. With Carin, they aim to empower women to combat bladder control issues, a common condition after childbirth, during menopause and with old age. “Together with an exercise app, this smart underwear can track and monitor the reduction of urine loss resulting from the practice of pelvic floor exercises. Setting Carin apart from other products in this category is its painless, non-invasive method to educate and motivate women to exercise the pelvic floor muscles.”
Pelvic floor exercise
“Every woman knows that pelvic floor exercise is the best treatment for this problem. However, the biggest challenge we see is that women find it difficult to make a habit out of it. After the user tests we have done in the past year, we found out that most of the women see major improvements after only 2 to 3 weeks training with Carin. This is the best reward for the hard work and time spent on developing this product,” says Julia Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-founder of LifeSense Group.
Recently, Carin’s hardware has received a make-over: it now lasts for two years with a single, tiny primary battery. LifeSense Group is about to launch a new version of Carin in November at Medica, the world’s largest healthcare trade fair. There is still more news to come, according to Pop. “We are closing large global partnerships to have an impact on women’s lives to make a solution available for the millions of women who have kept this a secret for many years.”
Privacy and security issues
We feel this is a great product for an embarrassing problem, urine loss, but with putting technology in underwear comes serious concerns, too. Let’s put it this way: the startup places technology near your private parts. How innocent that may sound, we do have questions whether this is safe enough in terms of privacy. We asked a CTO in an IoT-company, and his answer was crystal-clear: “If it solely relies on Bluetooth, then the tracker can be easily hacked.” Not something any woman should want near her nether regions, right?
UPDATED TO ADD COMMENT FROM Lifesense
Pop, Lifesense’s CEO, assures us the company respects all the Bluetooth security protocols regarding encryption. “Most important, there is no personal data sent through the Bluetooth communication. So even if the people will hack, [it] will not conflict with the woman’s privacy, which is so important, not only for Carin but also for any other wearables.”
Quote edited for clarity and grammar.