New “Smart Toilet” Can Tell if You’re Pregnant, Drunk, Depressed or on Drugs
Scientists at the NanoPhotonics Centre and the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis have developed an intelligent toilet that can analyze urine to determine health information and the presence of any drugs or alcohol. As soon as users urinate in the “smart lavatory”, it analyzes the sugar and drug levels in the urine and sends off the information to doctors. However, privacy advocates are worried about how and where this smart toilet could be used.
Unless the user is explicitly told they are using a smart toilet, they could use the toilet and without knowing it transmit a wide range of private health information to the toilet’s owners. Parents could potentially use the toilet to monitor their children’s drug and alcohol use. Employers could also be discreetly notified if employees have consumed dangerous substances when they go out on breaks or just to determine their habits outside of work. Governments could install them to monitor civilian populations.
Beyond detecting the presence of drugs and alcohol, the toilet can analyze the urine to determine if the user is depressed, pregnant or has recently smoked.
Data Sharing and Public Fear
The toilet analyzes users’ urine through a breakthrough nano-technology that tracks chemical and hormonal changes in the body of the user. This information is silently relayed to third parties who can use the data as they like. For instance, doctors could use the relayed information to review the medication dosage of their patients.
The prototype of the new intelligent toilet was showcased at the Royal Society’s Summer Science exhibition in London this week. Following the exhibition, members of the public will be able to ask questions on how the toilet gathers and uses personal data among rising concerns on how big companies use and share private data. Attendees at the event were asked to imagine a wide range of scenarios under which the toilet could be used or pose a security risk, and then the company attempted to address the concerns for such scenarios.
The New Loo Could Prevent Illnesses and Save the NHS Millions of Money
The developers from Cambridge University explained that the toilet works by channeling urine into a tiny device containing gold or silver nanoparticles. Each nanoparticle is a “thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair,” the UK’s Daily Mail reported. Molecules in the user’s urine are held in the tiny gaps between the gold or silver nanoparticles, causing them to be vibrated so that the device’s laser beams can analyze the urine.
According to Jeremy Baumberg, Professor of Nanoscience at Cambridge and director of the NanoPhotonics Centre, the toilet is expected to come with a £1,000 price tag when it hits the market.
Baumberg acknowledged the potential privacy concerns that could stem from a smart toilet, but he said that the toilet would enable people to better track their physical and mental issues, saving the U.K.’s National Health Service a lot of money.
“We’re testing public opinion because we are well aware of the sensitivities of private medical data after the recent furor over the use of personal information by commercial companies,” he said.
“The potential benefits of this new technology in preventing illness and saving the N.H.S. millions of pounds is immense,” Baumberg told the Daily Mail.