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ZigBee-equipped underpants are being used to detect incontinence in Australian care homes.

The Smart Incontinence Management (SIM) System from Simavita connects a moisture detector with a ZigBee transmitter to log incontinence "events" for plotting on a helpful SIMchart while alerting staff with an SMS message, as RFID Journal reports.

Apparently it's taken almost 15 years to get the technology right - making the product easier to use and distinguishing between sweat and other fluids has presented a technical challenge, and even now the product seems surprisingly bulky.

Currently the SIMsystem only detects urine, but the company reckons bowel movements are only a software upgrade away.

The SIMsystem connects to a dedicated server, the SIMserver, and reports back every few minutes with a three-day battery life. The company is quite clear that you can't just install your own software; a dedicated PC provided by them is needed. That reporting back is important, as the real role of the SIM System is revealed in the company's FAQ:

19. Will we get more money from the government if we use the SIMsystem™? There is potential for increased funding, especially in the case of low care beds which are currently not funded as they are not classified as ‘incontinent’ beds. The SIMsystem™ proves incontinence where it was previously not possible to do so. It also may secure funding where claw back of funding would not happen as the evidence of incontinence is unqualified.

So one doesn't fit the elderly with sensors in order to respond faster, one carries out a three-day monitoring exercise in order to prove incontinence and get more money from the government.

Hopefully by the time we're old enough to need a SIMpad the technology will be a standard feature of the bath chair - assuming Steve Jobs hasn't bankrupted the company for using his word without permission. ®

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