Hygiene Today & Automatic Health Monitoring Tomorrow #CES2021

Could the future of health monitoring start in one’s bathroom? The answer is yes if Toto’s plans for its toilets evolve as described by Toto USA’s Bill Strang. It is an evolutionary path that starts with today’s touchless toilet experience.

Strang, President of Corporate Strategy, E-Commerce, and Customer Experience, discusses Toto’s latest toilet seat offerings, which feature bidet functionality, as well as electrolyzed water for self-cleaning. This not only has the benefit of a cleaner bathroom, but it reduces the need for harsh chemicals when one cleans their loo.

CES2021 was also the launching stage for Toto’s “Wellness Partner”. Conceptual at this point, the idea is to add health monitoring capabilities to the toilet seat. Although Strang doesn’t provide detail on the type of sensing or even what the initial monitoring capabilities will be, scientists have long been studying how a sensor-laden, Internet-connected toilet seat could work.

For example, this April 2020 article describes a research toilet seat from Stanford researchers that is outfitted with

“a suite of different technologies, use motion sensing to deploy a mixture of tests that assess the health of any deposits. Urine samples undergo physical and molecular analysis; stool assessment is based on physical characteristics.”

The article suggests that this sort of automatic monitoring could have particular appeal to those people,

“who are genetically predisposed to certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, prostate cancer or kidney failure, and want to keep on top of their health.”

As Strang touches upon in the above interview, for such a device to be effective its operation must be invisible to and require no intervention from the user. Additionally, user data must be secure. The article about the Stanford prototype outlines one way to automatically identify users (one might say they use the opposite of facial recognition) and protect sensitive health data.

Implicit in such a device is a connection to the cloud via an Internet connection. Toto has experience with IoT devices, as shown in this Viodi 2019 interview. Strang says that one of the benefits of getting a connected product in the market is the feedback they receive. As an example, Strang describes how restroom metadata can provide awareness and serve as a trigger for a commercial operator to perform a welfare check on a person who is in a restroom stall for an extraordinarily long time.

Strang says to look for Q1 2023 for the introduction of Toto’s first wellness toilet. One can only imagine the impact that such a device will have on proactive health management.  As shown in Toto’s video clips integrated into the above video, the data could trigger messages encouraging specific healthy behavior recommendations.

The aggregated metadata could definitely provide a more accurate answer to the question posed to Strang at the end of the above interview.

Interview Highlights:

  • 01:03 – Strang welcomes viewers to CES2021
  • 02:03 – Demand for touchless toilets skyrocketed in 2020 in tandem with demand for toilet paper. He explains their new products, the C2 and C5, include washlets that electrolyze water for self-cleaning.
  • 05:05 – Electolyzing water reduces the need for harsh chemicals. It does require a 120 VAC GFCI outlet, but it doesn’t require consumables.
  • 06:59 – Strang talks about the importance of proactive health diagnostics. It will allow them to measure, quantify, and make recommendations (an example being that a person drinks more water).
  • 10:21 – Monitoring becomes even more critical for an aging population.
  • 11:47 – Strang emphasizes that the goal is accurate data collection and recommendations, regardless of the implemented technology. There is the potential for Toto apps, as well as it feeding third-party apps.
  • 15:36 – It is going through beta testing today. Strang estimates a Q1 2023 rollout for the first product.
  • 16:53 – Connecting devices to the Internet allows one to learn of use-cases that they would otherwise not know. As an example, monitoring flush valves allow commercial operators to understand if toilets are being used for an inordinate amount of time and take action (e.g. perform a welfare check).
  • 19:26 – Strang provides a witty and, no doubt, accurate retort to a somewhat off-topic question. Who knows the accuracy of studies that address the question?¹ One thing is certain that a wellness toilet could provide aggregated real-world data that would be much more accurate than the self-reported data found in the current studies.

¹ According to this 2017 study of 2,004 British citizens, the average person spends twice as much time per week on the toilet (3 hours 9 minutes) compared to physical exercise (1 hour 30 minutes).