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Grace: Countering menopausal hot flushes

Grace is the first automated tracking and cooling device for women experiencing menopausal hot flushes. Using localised cooling in a wrist worn device, debilitating hot flushes are countered day and night.

  • Cooling wristband to counter hot flushes

  • Band holds one battery whilst other charges

  • Sketch concepts, development and research

  • Prototyping and testing throughout the process

  • Current form established through user testing

What it does

Grace is the first automated tracking and cooling device for women experiencing menopausal hot flushes. Using localised cooling in a wrist worn device, debilitating hot flushes are countered day and night.

Your inspiration

Nearly 10 million women experience hot flushes in the UK alone. That is almost 1 in 3 women. As an area of design that has been largely unexplored, women are crying out for an effective solution. Like most 22 year old men, I knew almost nothing about the menopause at the start of the project. My manager from an internship was talking to me, complaining that there were almost no products that exist to help to alleviate symptoms. No physical product has been widely adopted due to consumer doubts of perceived effectiveness or poor styling. This gap in the market gave me motivation to design something new.

How it works

At the onset of a hot flush, the body's thermoregulatory system is falsely triggered and acts to lose heat. This causes sweating, a rise in heart rate, shortness of breath and a reddening of skin. This is a deeply unpleasant experience for the user. Using three sensors in a wristband, a hot flush can be detected around one minute prior to the user becoming aware of it. At this point, a localised cooling mechanism is triggered, comprising a Peltier Module (Thermoelectric Chip). This intense cooling sensation on the wrist sends a signal to the brain. The body's reaction acts in a directly opposite way to a hot flush, thereby countering the event. From research with a Clinical Sleep Research Unit in Loughborough, it appears that Grace will work on two levels: By regaining control over their body, the user's self confidence is also restored (something which is often lost due to the unpredictable nature of their symptoms).

Design process

Market research and a competitor analysis was first undertaken to establish the feasibility of a new product in this area of design. Desk research and interviews were used to gain a deep understanding of users' current coping mechanisms and the biological mechanisms that take place during a hot flush. Many cardboard prototypes were created to visualise concepts. These accelerated the design process by highlighting issues and solving them in a tangible format. A good example of this was for the wrist strap. Prototypes developed the band to become easy to put on/take off, substantial enough to hold electronics and also maintain a light aesthetic. Sketching was done in parallel to the above activities to document and develop the design. It was particularly useful in establishing an appropriate style of the product, avoiding clinical aesthetics. Testing functionality was a key task. This started in a very lightweight way - simply holding items from the fridge against different body parts to assess temperature sensitivity. From there, the prototypes developed to a functional circuit. Finally, an interaction prototype was created (see video). From testing, the design direction was influenced and multiple aspects changed, improving usability.

How it is different

Current solutions are in the form of prescribed drugs or herbal remedies. However, these have unpleasant side effects and have been linked to Breast Cancer. Women are looking for an alternative which is safe to use both long and short term. One cooling device exists currently, however it must be manually operated. The user must wait for a hot flush, press a button to activate the device and raise it to their neck. By this point, the hot flush has fully developed and is difficult to stop. Grace uses sensors to detect hot flushes early. This, coupled with automatic cooling gives Grace a much higher chance of fully countering a flush. With night flushes, users can wake 20 times per night, finding themselves and their bed soaked with sweat. It was therefore key to design something which could be used day and night. Grace has two batteries, allowing for 24hr use. With automated cooling, users can finally sleep through the night and stay comfortable during the day.

Future plans

The first step towards bringing Grace to market is a larger research phase - Clinically validating the concept is key to its success. Having filed a patent application, I hope to seek funding to kick-start the development needed to make Grace a reality.


Loughborough Enterprise and Innovation Award - Highly Commended

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