If you think they’ve thought of everything, what about a toilet that costs $8,000? It could come to a loo near you by the end of 2019. What could possibly make a bit of porcelain worth that much money? It might just become priceless if its smart technology can identify a health problem before its too late. Here is how artificial intelligence is being used for toilets.
As artificial intelligence has been altering our homes and workplaces, our toilets were neglected. Even though Japanese companies have been selling high-tech toilets since the 1980s, they hadn’t gained much traction in the rest of the world. That’s not the case anymore! Kitchen and bath supplier Kohler just introduced its second-generation Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toiletthat comes equipped with LED lights that can change color dynamically; built-in Amazon Alexa so you can inquire about the weather, ask Alexa questions and play your favorite tunes while relieving yourself; hands-free, motion-activated (and heated) lid; Bluetooth; bidet and dryer; and more! Of course, in the case of a power outage, the toilet has an emergency flush feature.
Toilets as a Health Tool
Aside from the novelty of a smart toilet with all the bells and whistles, smart toilets can actually play an important role in monitoring health at the hospital and at home. One toilet seat developed by the Rochester Institute of Technology contains devices that measure blood oxygenation levels, heart rate, and blood pressure to signal when someone is at risk for congestive heart failure. The device was part of a study to determine ways to reduce hospital readmission rates; nearly 70% of patients with congestive heart failure are readmitted within 90 days of discharge.
Japanese firm Toto created one of the first smart toilets that could monitor health indicators in the early 2000s. It was able to monitor sugar levels in urine, check body weight, temperature and hormone levels and transmit the data to computers and doctors who could advise about fertility. Toto’sFlow Sky toilet can measure urine flow by monitoring the water level in the toilet. Changes in urine flow could signal a prostate or bladder concern.
Other companies' projects focus on solutions that would allow the elderly and people with disabilities to live independently longer. The iToilet project created a toilet that could adjust the height and tilt of a toilet via voice commands and have sensors to detect the safety of people using them. This not only helps the people using them be more independent but also relieves strain on their caregivers.
What if the toilet in your home could monitor your health by analyzing your daily waste? This might be possible on a wide scale in the future.Discreetly placed sensors on the toilet could retrieve the data that artificial algorithms could analyze to determine early signs of disease if there are other health issues that need to be addressed or manage conditions such as diabetes. Since toilets get used several times a day, it makes capturing data easy and part of a person's everyday routine. This consistent data could help us all shift to a more proactive response to healthcare.
Smart toilets could also have an essential role in monitoring public health. With the help of data collected from smart toilets in public spaces in combination with the weather and other data from satellites, it could give global health professionals early warnings of a disease outbreak before it becomes a crisis.
Since human waste leaves a lot of clues about a person's overall health, more consistent analysis of it could be beneficial. Many illnesses and ailments such as kidney disease, bladder issues and infections, cancer, and more leave tell-tale signs in urine and feces that they have invaded the body. Chemical analysis, cameras, and other techniques can be used to gather this intel. Unlike wearable health trackers, people don't need to remember to charge batteries or "put on" a smart toilet. A person's consistent use of a smart toilet will allow for consistent data creation without them needing to remember or do anything outside of their routine.
Toilets are the same as any consumer product—the more interest and demand for smart toilets that can track health status the more companies will jump in to create the supply. Now that consumers are using health and fitness devices, will they be more interested in a smart toilet? If Google getting a patent for a blood pressure-monitoring toilet is any indication, we believe intelligent toilets will begin to proliferate assuming manufacturers make them easy to use and reliable as well as overcome the privacy and security concerns people will have about collecting this very personal data.
What reservations do you have about using a smart toilet?
Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.