A Proof-of-Concept 'Smart Toilet' System Monitors Your Health and Identifies You by 'Analprint'
A team of researchers primarily based out of Stanford University has engineered a proof-of-concept smart toilet module designed to monitor a user's health based on their urine and stools.
The system mounts on a conventional sit-down toilet and utilizes cameras to measure the user's feces based on the Bristol stool scale. At the same time, a pressure sensor built in to the toilet seat monitors the bowel movement's duration. Both of these measures can reveal conditions like chronic constipation, irritable bowel system, and even colon cancer.
Users who stand to urinate can also have their velocity, flow, and duration measured by camera, while test strips automatically extend into the stream for urinalysis, which can ascertain a variety of chemical levels and test for numerous substances.
Upon completion of defecation or urination, the system uploads all of the user's results to a protected cloud. Individual users are identified via a fingerprint scanner embedded in the flush lever as well as by "analprint" (yes, the researchers called it an analprint). A camera on the toilet module images the user's anus, allowing an algorithm to link the anus image to a specific person on subsequent use.
Many will understandably wince at the idea of their anuses and excretions being uploaded to the Internet, no matter how supposedly secure the database. The researchers counter by insisting that this sort of data, collected frequently from lots of participants, can provide an unprecedented look into the health of Americans.
"The toilet will ultimately function as the daily clinic for continuous monitoring of human excreta, feeding data into models of human health that can be used for screening and subsequent diagnostics," they write.
The researchers' smart toilet module is nowhere close to realizing that utopian vision – it's prohibitively expensive, too inaccurate for everyday use, and unable to provide urinalysis for those who sit to pee – but it is an intriguing initial step.
The scientists hope to improve upon their contraption in the coming years.
"We aim to include multiple, clinically relevant assays in our system: (1) microfluidics observation of cellular components from urine, (2) physical, quantitative analysis of defecation, and (3) sample-to-answer type biochemical analysis of stool, including genomics and microbiomics."
Source: Seung-min Park et al. "A mountable toilet system for personalized health monitoring via the analysis of excreta." Nature Biomedical Engineering. April 2020. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41551-020-0534-9