Tracking your movements: Space-age loos check poo for disease
FitLoos will monitor bodily waste for health problems, saving valuable data that is ordinarily flushed away
The bathroom is arguably the last bastion of privacy, but soon a new hi-tech lavatory could be tracking your every movement.
Researchers at the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have teamed up with sanitation specialists to create the FitLoo, which screens human waste for early signs of disease. Data gathered by the sensors in the toilet bowl could be beamed to users’ smartphones, or directly to doctors to keep a remote eye on patients.
“The toilet offers an opportunity for people to gain control of their health,” said Michael Lindenmayer, digital health and smart sanitation lead at the Toilet Board Coalition, which represents leading toilet manufacturers. “At the moment people only go to the doctor when they are sick. We do not listen to our bodies enough, but the toilet is listening every time we use it. There is a huge amount of health information that is simply flushed into the sewers every time we go.”
The project is based on automated sample-testing technology already used by astronauts to monitor health in space. For example, the International Space Station (ISS) has been trialling a device called the Urine Monitoring System which tests small quantities of fluid when astronauts urinate.
Researchers have also been developing simple tests that can detect changes in glucose in urine or the presence of markers that might be an early warning of cancer or diabetes.
Researchers at Stanford University have also developed a colour-changing paper test that, with the help of a smartphone camera, can detect diseases or spot signs of a urinary tract infection.
“At the moment these are a mishmash of technologies rather than a single device, but the aim is to combine them together into a smart toilet,” added Lindenmayer. “You don’t need to monitor for everything, as you can get a lot of information about your health from a few key pieces of data.”
By putting sensors in public toilets, health officials could track and predict the spread of diseases in communities, giving an early warning of outbreaks.
Davide Coppola, a project manager at ESA, said: “We have identified opportunities for utilising space technologies and data for sanitation. One of those is to establish preventive health information systems by combining health data from toilet smart sensors with satellite Earth-observation data.
“If you have 1,000 smart toilets collectively monitoring certain diseases in an area, you can use space data to fill in the gaps and calculate the likelihood of the spread of diseases.”
One start-up company, S-There, which is based in Bilbao, Spain, and supported by MIT, claims its FitLoo device can monitor for conditions like diabetes or look for signs of protein in urine that can be an indicator of other more serious diseases. Adrian Gomez, co-founder of the company, said they hoped to have their device approved by medical regulators and on sale by 2020.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited