“The flush toilet, more than any single invention, has ‘civilized’ us in a way that religion and law could never accomplish.” – Thomas Lynch
In the realm of the smart home business, Google is now looking at the bathroom as demonstrated by some recently filed patents by the company. In the future, toilet seats, bath mats, bathroom mirrors, bath tubs might embed sensors and cameras to help us track our health – heart rate, skin color variations, blood pressure, echo test, electrical patterns, you name it! The collected data could then very well be sent to health professionals…
Have I mentioned that this could very well include analysis of your toilet’s contents? What caught my interest here, is that this signal represents a change in the way we comprehend bodily waste, from a private issue to a health concern. Nowadays bathrooms are mostly private and there is disgust and social shame around our excretion in most civilizations. At the same time, it does represent a very rich source of data on our health and condition. Changing the way we think about bodily waste to use it as information to receive better diagnostic and better treatment is revolutionary.
No doubt, we can foresee many advantages. First of all, for the individuals concerned, they would be diagnosed in the earliest stages. Many people don’t particularly enjoy getting lab work done, or they don’t have easy access to a lab, and some are not even aware that they might be sick. This would gain a lot of time regarding diagnostic and treatment. For society as a whole, it could represent a gain in medical expenses, as we could detect problems earlier and prevent the condition from deteriorating. Some institutions such as hospitals, senior homes, colleges could equip at large and use such feature for their residents to detect high level of blood sugar, bacteria proliferation, presence of drugs, pregnancy hormones, etc.
As soon, as lab work will be part of the smart bathroom and connected home, patients won’t need to wait for symptoms, then visit a doctor to get a prescription, then go to the lab, then wait for the results, then go back to the doctors, then go to the pharmacy, then receive treatment, then do go back to doctor-lab-pharmacy for followup. The cycle would be much shorter and integrated. For example as soon as they detect a vitamin deficiency or blood sugar highs, individuals could proceed to the adapted treatment. Pharmacy could be connected to smart toilets, doctors could be aware and validate the prescription, and patients could receive vitamin complements or insulin refills in less than no time.
It does look like an exciting future, even if slightly scary. First of all, you’d probably feel that your bodily fluids could tell more about yourself to others than you know yourself if that data escapes you and is communicated to healthcare providers. There might be some false alerts as well, which could create additional stress, whereas the body is often able to regulate over time before treatment is needed. It would also make the very private place that the bathroom place is, a place invaded by technology accompanied by the feeling that “someone is watching you” – but I’m wondering if this latest threat is not becoming less significant as more and more people are actually already using their phones on the toilets…!