New ‘smart toilet’ technology can look for signs of disease, scientists claim

Going to the loo may never be the same again thanks to scientists who claim to have invented a device that can be fitted on toilets to detect signs of various diseases in stool and urine.

The gadget, which fits inside the bowl, uses cameras, test strips and motion sensing technology to analyse the deposits and sends the data to a secure cloud server.

The researchers said their so-called “smart toilet” technology could be useful to individuals who are genetically predisposed to certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, prostate cancer or kidney failure.

Dr Sanjiv Gambhir, professor and chair of radiology at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in the US, and senior author on the study, said: “Our concept dates back well over 15 years.

“When I’d bring it up, people would sort of laugh because it seemed like an interesting idea, but also a bit odd.”

The gadget analyses the basic biochemical composition of excreta, with urine samples undergoing physical and molecular analysis while stool assessment is based on physical characteristics.

According to the researchers, the data gathered from the samples can reveal biomarkers for 10 different types of diseases, from infection and bladder cancer to kidney failure.

The technology, which falls into a category known as continuous health monitoring, has been tested on 21 participants but the researchers say the potential health benefits of their toilet system will need to be assessed in large clinical studies.

Dr Gambhir added: “The thing about a smart toilet, though, is that unlike wearables, you can’t take it off.

“Everyone uses the bathroom – there’s really no avoiding it – and that enhances its value as a disease-detecting device.”

Smart toilet technology
The gadget fits inside the bowl and uses cameras, test strips and motion sensing technology to analyse urine and stool samples (Seung-min Park/Stanford University’s School of Medicine)

The technology a combination of fingerprint scanning and, strangely, images of the anus to differentiate between users.

Dr Gambhir said: “We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique.

“The scans – both finger and nonfinger – are used purely as a recognition system to match users to their specific data.”

But he adds this technology is no replacement for a doctor or a clinical diagnosis.

According to Dr Gambhir, the next steps in their project will be to develop personalised tests tailored to the user.

The research is published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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