If you have been on the fence about switching from disposable sanitary products to a menstrual cup, the Looncup may be just the product to sway you. Currently collecting funding on Kickstarter, it uses Bluetooth connectivity to connect to a free Android or iOS app to monitor your menstrual cycle.
"Think of the Looncup as your monthly period partner -- a friend who drops by when you need her to help you feel better and make sure you're taking care of your body during this special time," the campaign reads.
"A Looncup can do so much more than a tampon, pad, or even a regular menstrual cup can do. It's the world's first smart menstruation cup, and you'll love the way it tells you exactly how full it is, and when it's time to refresh. Your new Looncup will precisely track your fluid volume, fluid colour, and analyse your cycles. Try finding a tampon, pad, or cup that can do all of that!"
Like other menstrual cups on the market, it's made of soft silicone that can be crumpled tight for insertion, and supposedly sits comfortably in the vaginal canal, collecting menstrual fluid. When it's full, you pull it out by the stem, empty and rinse it, and put it back.
Where the Looncup differs is its embedded triaxial, RGB and force sensors, and Bluetooth receiver. These are sealed in the silicone, so they will never make contact with any part of the body, and they connect with a smartphone app to track and analyse menstrual data.
This includes, of course, learning when your period is likely to arrive, and sending you a reminder via the app, which is the most obvious use. It also, unlike other menstrual cups on the market, can tell when it is getting full, letting you know via the app (also compatible with the Apple Watch) that it needs to be emptied. At 50 percent full, it will send you more frequent reminders, and at 70 percent, more frequent reminders still.
It also analyses the colour of the fluid. While it does tend to naturally darken over the course of the menstrual period, anything outside of this could be an indicator of stress or other low health. A lighter colour, for instance, could indicate anemia, while darker for the entire duration could indicate dehydration. Very dark could be an indicator of endometriosis. The Looncup will keep careful note and let you know if you should see a doctor.
It sounds pretty great, but there are some limitations. For example, you should never (obviously) wear it going through airport security.
Another is the battery, which is non-rechargeable and non-replaceable. This is because the electronics need to be sealed inside the silicone, to keep the electronics from harming the wearer, or fluids from damaging the electronics. It lasts for six months, sleeping when not in use. Once the battery dies, the cup can still be used, it'll just be a regular "dumb" menstrual cup. According to the Kickstarter FAQ, the team is trying to find ways to increase battery life.
A wirelessly rechargeable product is in the cards for the future, a Loon Lab representative told me in an email, but for now the focus is on safety. Coin batteries are safer for the time being than a rechargeable option.
Nor can the cup be boiled for sterilization, as is recommended with other menstrual cups. The heat could easily damage the electronics. Instead, Loon Lab recommends gentle washing with soap and water.
The cup is due to be shipped worldwide from January 2016, but we think it's only just beginning to scratch the surface of its potential. Imagine an app that will order your favourite comfort items, based on previous menstrual cycles.
It's currently being offered as a reward for a minimum Kickstarter pledge of $40, with free global shipping. Comparable "dumb" menstrual cups come in at half that, so it's up to you to decide whether it's worth the extra $20 for six months of menstrual espionage.
That's my new band name, by the way.