How Smart Toilets are Improving Health and Hygiene

You don’t have to travel all the way to Japan to experience the latest in toilet technology. While the land of the rising sun is renowned for its quirky tech, a lot of the latest innovations appear to be coming from the United States and Europe – such as the hands free smart toilet.

This clever creation borrows from the bidet, adds a few extra bells and whistles and consequently becomes a toilet that can help reduce the stresses of a post-pandemic lifestyle.

Shared spaces like hotels, public transport and offices have been of concern ever since we first heard the name COVID-19. However, Peter Collignon from the Australian National University says bathrooms and toilets are spaces that deserve more attention.

“It’s time for a rethink on lots of things, and bathrooms are one of them,” said the professor of infectious diseases. “Infection control and protections should be as vital to bathroom design as fire safety.”

Speaking to The Guardian, Collignon went so far as to say that there should be standards set for infection control in future building codes focusing on hands free flushing, self cleaning toilets and taps activated by sensors.

Collignon was speaking specifically of public restrooms, but there’s no reason why the bathrooms in your house should be treated any differently. How often has a bout of gastro entered your home only for it to cycle through every member of the family before exiting?

This is where hands free smart toilets have the potential to improve hygiene for you and everyone entering your home.

roca smart toilets

What is a Smart Toilet?

Everyday appliances are constantly updated with smart features, so it’s only natural that the toilet joined the ranks. A smart toilet takes the familiar loo and gives it things like Bluetooth connectivity, built-in bidets, sensors and other additional features for added convenience and hygiene. Smart toilet features can include:

● Heated toilet seats
● Night light
● Automated seat raising and lowering
● Self cleaning capabilities
● Built-in speakers
● Hands free flushing
● Deodoriser
● Built-in bidet
● Air dryer
● Remote control

It’s unlikely that any one model will offer all of the above features, but every quality smart toilet will be capable of most. It’s also as close as you can get to a Japanese toilet without needing a passport.

But it’s the hygiene functions that make these intelligent toilets vital to the post-pandemic world. The built-in bidet, hands free flush and self cleaning capabilities in particular.

smart toilets bidet sprayer

No Paper? No Problem!

We’ve all seen how difficult it can be to purchase toilet paper during a pandemic. Things have gotten a lot better, but the panic buying that led to shortages across the country was no joke. Except maybe it was to those who already own a bidet toilet.

The bidet function eliminates the need for paper by washing your backside using a water jet. Most smart toilets have a nozzle at the rear, which extends to wash and then retracts when it’s done.

Then the built-in air dryer takes care of the rest. This way, you can go about your business without ever having to reach for the toilet rolls.

The experience takes some getting used to by all accounts, but it’s got to be better than encountering empty shelves in the supermarket and being left wondering how you’ll wipe.

One of the best smart toilets making toilet paper obsolete is the Kohler Veil. This premium rimless toilet offers touchless flushing, a heated seat, a heated air dryer, deodorising carbon filter and self cleaning using sterilised water and an inbuilt UV light. It’s an all-in-one experience that’s achieved without the use of your hands.

Porcelain throne is an apt descriptor for the loo, but it does possess a hefty price tag. In Australia, a Kohler Veil will set you back $6,966.

For anyone looking to upgrade on a budget, the bidet toilet seat could be the way to go. These clip-on accessories can add a bidet to your existing toilet, with prices starting at around $300. However, only a select few offer hands free flushing. They can also be bulky, potentially messing with the aesthetics of a home. There’s also the need for an electrician if no power point is close by. The smart features are useless without access to electricity.

lafeme toilet suite

The Future of Smart Toilets

The smart toilet industry is still in its infancy but is expected to grow quickly, possibly due to COVID-19. As Professor Collignon points out, “The major way coronavirus is transmitted is via respiratory droplets, so you can catch it off surfaces that your hands touch.”

The more hands free toilets installed, the less likely it is that bathrooms become points of transmission.

If you’re looking to upgrade, there are a select few brands that have smart toilets available in Australia. Beyond the Kohler Veil, Lafeme and Roca brings a plethora of luxury and hygienic features to your toilet time. Although their models are priced similarly to the Kohler loo.

While we wait for the smart technology to become more affordable, academics are already looking to add more health benefits to the loo. An article on the Stanford Medicine News Centre titled “‘Smart toilet’ monitors for signs of disease” details a new technology that could become the number one source of data regarding your number twos.

Dr Sanjiv Gambhir has built a device for the toilet to detect a range of disease markers in both urine and faeces.

“It’s sort of like buying a bidet add-on that can be mounted right into your existing toilet,” he said. “And like a bidet, it has little extensions that carry out different purposes.”

toilet sign

Using physical, visual and molecular analysis, the toilet technology can detect several cancers, kidney failure and irritable bowel syndrome. The data can then be automatically sent to secure cloud-based systems and potentially be integrated into a health care provider’s records for easy access.

“The smart toilet is the perfect way to harness a source of data that is typically ignored – and the user doesn’t have to do anything differently.”

Gambhir’s technology is still in the early stages of testing, but his goals include further developing the molecular analysis aspect. “That’s a bit trickier, but we’re working toward it,” he said.

As COVID-19 can be detected in wastewater, Gamnhir’s goals are incredibly timely. His technology has the potential to become a game changer, by being used as a detector for future outbreaks while advancing his original uses for the tech.

And unlike trips to the GP, there’s no avoiding the toilet bowl.

If you’re someone who whips out the sanitiser at every turn, a smart toilet could do more than help your peace of mind. And who knows, as the technology advances and starts analysing your poo, there might be a day when you can proudly declare “the smart toilet saved my life!”

Published: 15 Mar, 2021

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