Smart Toilets, a royal flush for Home Healthcare?

Passive devices like wireless motion sensors and Nike+ sensors in running shoes are great ways to monitor activity and progress, but what about your chemical makeup? Toilets, it seems, are ideal places to check bodily fluids automatically and on a regular basis. A Huffington Post article about Kohler’s smart toilet caused me to write this with my own twist and with more focus on home healthcare.


Kohler’s Numi, which launches this month, was billed as the world’s first “Smart Toilet,” but is this $6,400 flusher just for royalty, or is it also a royal flush for home healthcare? Watch this video, and let us know what you think.

Product Summary – Numi flushes automatically and quietly with six flush cycles to save water. It has a self-cleaning bidet with dryer and adjustable water temperature and pressure, a heated seat and foot warmer. It also has ambient lighting and stereo speakers with built-in FM radio and an audio jack for your MP3 player. That way, you can bring your iPod with you and jam on the can. A motion sensor raises and closes the seat automatically, and a hand-held remote can program preferences for six individuals in dozens of languages.


What makes Numi smart doesn’t make it the first, except in America, because Japan has had smart toilets for 10 years or more. I referenced Panasonic’s IntiMist smart toilets as examples of embedded technology in my “Trends & Directions” presentations at IBM before retiring in 1999. I even wrote about them in 2000 (in “Future-Proofing Your Home – Is it Possible?”).

“In Japan, Panasonic sells a very popular smart toilet that learns who you are by estimating your weight and percent body fat and then chemically analyzes your output and reports it to a health monitoring service. If these toilets come to America, I hope they won’t need A/C power or we might redefine the term ‘killer app.’”

I remember a story about this toilet that some Japanese friends told me over dinner during a visit to Panasonic one year.

We entered the restaurant and took off our shoes to don special slippers for sitting on pillows around a large, low table. After many drinks, it was time for me to go to the bathroom. Before entering the bathroom, I changed into a different pair of slippers. I changed back afterwards, because it’s a terrible insult to return to the dining table with “bathroom” slippers.

When I sat down again, my Japanese friends told me of an American dignitary who once returned from the bathroom all wet. It seems he couldn’t read Kanji characters on the toilet, and after doing his business, he stood up and looked inside. He started pushing buttons, trying to flush the toilet, but he pressed the wrong one. The bidet sprayed him in the face.

Panasonic’s smart toilet never made it to America, but they did introduce an IntiMist Bidet as a $700 personal hygiene system attachment for most two-piece toilets. Apparently the U.S. market wasn’t ready for bathroom technologies popular in Japan.


When researching for this article, I couldn’t find a picture of Panasonic’s smart toilet, but I found one from Toto that does much the same thing. The Toto Intelligence Toilet II can measure, record, show and report important health data like blood pressure, sugar levels, body temperature, weight, and body mass index so trends can be analyzed. It talks Wi-Fi to connect to a wireless home network.

Toto Intelligence II smart toilet

Toto Intelligence II smart toilet

Green Toilets too?

Good product design with embedded computer intelligence can serve more than one purpose, including saving energy and improving health and wellbeing. This includes the toilet.

While Japan has spent a decade designing smart toilets focused on cleanliness and healthcare, Europe is studying “NoMix” toilets that separate urine from solid waste. The goal is to improve waste water treatment and produce methane for generating electricity. Why not mix both objectives in one toilet design?

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