Tuesday, 21 July 2015


Lavatory Experiments: The Latest in Toilet Tech
By Glenn McDonald,
Discovery News, 20 July 2015.

It is perhaps not polite, in certain circles, to talk about toilets. But nevertheless they represent an area of technology that we all encounter daily. While the basics of the commode haven't changed much in recent decades, innovators are constantly chipping away at porcelain tradition, bringing high technology to bear. And in developing countries, toilets are no laughing matter. Basic sanitation continues to be an urgent public health issue in much of the world. So squeamishness be damned! We take a look at some toilet tech from around the globe.

1. Folding Toilet


Designers Elliott Whiteley and Gareth Humphreys came up with the Iota folding toilet concept while studying Product Design at The University of Huddersfield in England. The toilets folds itself up to flush and stays folded when not in use, conserving water and space.

2. Toilet With Built-In Fan


It's hard to argue with this idea. The Fresh Air Plus toilet seat, installed atop your regular toilet, uses a built-in fan to whisk away air and odours before they ever leave the bowl proper. The trick? A ventilation tube that shuttles the air out of the toilet, through the wall, and ideally out of the house entirely. Don't tell the neighbours.

3. Deodorizing Toilet


Plumbing manufacturer Kohler has similar ideas in mind with its Purefresh toilet seat, which debuted last year. The Purefresh seat also uses a fan system, but replaces the ventilation tube with a battery-powered carbon filter and scent pack system to deodorize air. Among your scent pack options: Garden Waterfall, Soft and Fresh Laundry, and something called Avacado Spa. You also get an LED light for night-time excursions.

4. Toilet With Attachable Urinal


Anyone who has ever cleaned a bathroom knows that toilets really are designed for sitting. Males, quite frankly, mess up the whole system when they stand and aim. The Main Drain attempts to solve the problem by attaching an adjustable urinal to the side of your toilet. The receiving unit is designed to reduce splashing, and the articulated arm swings the entire unit out of the way when it's time to, you know, sit.

5. Blue Diversion Toilet


For much of the developing world, toilet technology is no joke. In 2012, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored a design contest called The Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, in an effort to improve sanitary conditions for those living without plumbing or electricity. Among the submitted designs, the Blue Diversion toilet can be fitted over existing pit latrines and uses solar-powered pumps and filters to isolate waste while recycling flush water.

6. Solar-Powered Self-Contained Toilet


The grand prize winner at the 2012 design event went to Caltech's solar-powered electrochemical waste treatment system, which actually breaks down waste into fertilizer and hydrogen gas that can be stored in fuel cells. The Caltech team - headed up by engineer Michael Hoffman - is currently developing the system with industry partners.

7. Solar-Thermal Toilet


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has since expanded its program, holding design fairs in India and China. Solar power is, naturally, the go-to energy source for off-the-grid toilet solutions. This solar-thermal toilet from the University of Colorado Boulder uses parabolic mirrors and fibre optics to superheat waste into biochar, an organic material than can be burned like charcoal.

8. Bluetooth-Enabled Toilet

Credit: Maya-Anaïs Yataghène/Flickr

Clearly, toilet technology remains an important area of research for very practical public health reasons. On the other hand, this is the 21st century, so we have to worry about weirdness, too. For instance, so-called "enhanced toilets" - with bidet, fragrance and even music functions - are very popular in Japan and often wired into smart home networks. As such they're technically vulnerable to, yes, hacking. Security company Trustwave recently issued an advisory on the Bluetooth-enabled Satis brand toilet: "Attackers could cause the unit to unexpectedly open/close the lid, activate bidet or air-dry functions, causing discomfort or distress to user." So, heads up on that.

Top image: Satis bluetooth-enabled toilet, via Design-Junky Laorosa.

[Source: Discovery News. Edited. Some links added.]

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