Apr 8, 2020 - Health

Smart toilets could someday track personalized health data at home

Bryan Walsh, author of Future

Where did this person get two rolls of toilet paper? Photo: George Mdivanian/EyeEm/Getty Images

A new study made the case for personalized diagnostic toilets capable of tracking health data from feces and urine.

Why it matters: Don't laugh — what comes out of your body can be very revealing about the state of your health. Smart toilets would enable us to track that health data at home, which suddenly seems more useful.

In a paper published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, researchers at Stanford University sketched out how such a diagnostic toilet would work and what it would be able to do. Features would include:

  • A fingerprint-sending handle so the toilet would personalize to the user.
  • Four cameras including an "anus camera."
  • A urinalysis strip that would monitor urine for biomarkers including protein and nitrates, which are linked to kidney health.

How it works: The toilet would send data and images to a secure, cloud-based portal.

  • Lest you think this is a joke, doctors are very excited about the potential health benefits of such smart toilets. "If we could collect data from the general population in a controlled clinical trial, it’s possible that you could use the existing platform to look for changes in urine or stool consistency associated with COVID-19," microbiologist Jack Gilbert told STAT.
  • Though such a toilet is only theoretical at this point, it's part of a trend toward more wearable and at-home diagnostics that is likely to be accelerated by the pandemic.

The catch: First you need to find toilet paper.

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