Technology is breaching the final frontier: the toilet.
Every day, we flush away a valuable trove of information. You know how doctors sometimes ask for a stool or urine sample? What if you could do that every single day, from the comfort of your home? That's exactly what French company Withings wants to do. At CES in Las Vegas, the smart toilet company presented a prototype of a $500 analyzer you plop into your toilet that tells you various aspects of your health.
The hardware basically sits in your toilet and analyzes what is thrown at it. Unless your aim is really good (spoiler alert, it's not) you'll need to sit down to use it properly. There’s a collection inlet that picks up urine, and when the sensor detects urine, it triggers a small pump that extracts a small portion of this urine for analysis.
It's nowhere near as performant as a full medical analysis, but it can act as a sort of urine litmus test, detecting the presence or absence of several substances from your body. For instance, one consumer unit, called the U-Scan Nutri Balance, analyzes the levels of various nutrient levels, fats, and vitamin C, as well as the pH of the urine and ketone levels, which offers important indications on whether your diet is healthy.
Another option, called the U-Scan Cycle Sync, can help women track their menstrual cycle and the levels of several hormones. All the results are sent directly to your phone. You can also set up different users and track the results for them individually.
The company is still awaiting regulatory approval and there could be some hurdles in the way, but sooner or later, this trend of precision health will definitely be coming. In 2020, Stanford researchers presented their own smart toilet, which could detect a range of disease markers in stool and urine, including those for some cancers, such as colorectal or urologic cancers. Several other universities and companies are also working on their own projects.
The idea isn't new, it's just that building sensors that can be both cheap enough and accurate and durable enough has proven very challenging. Sensor technology has improved substantially in recent years, which is why smart toilets no longer seem like a sci-fi concept, but rather something that is bound to happen pretty soon.
All this also fits well under the umbrella of personalized medicine, an emerging practice of using an individual's genetics and lifestyle profile to guide medical prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. In order to do this, however, you need a lot of individual data -- and that's where the smart toilets can come in handy.
So, would you use one of these toilets?