Smart toilets of the future could spot early signs of diseases like cancer and diabetes by tracking your urine.
Experts at the European Space Agency (ESA) and MIT have teamed up with sanitation specialists to create the ‘FitLoo’.
The high tech lavatory will screen urine for the presence of extra proteins and glucose, gathering data through sensors located inside the bowl.
These will detect fluctuations in levels of these substances, as well as the presence of other markers that might be an early warning of cancer or diabetes.
The ISS has been testing a device called the Urine Monitoring System, which collects an individual crew member’s urine.
Michael Lindenmayer, digital health and smart sanitation lead at the Toilet Board Coalition said that FitLoo gives people a great opportunity to gain control of their health.
‘At the moment people only go to the doctor when they are sick. We do not listen to our bodies enough, but the toilet is listening every time we use it,’ he said.
‘There is a huge amount of health information that is simply flushed into the sewers every time we go.’
Smart toilets are ubiquitous in places like Japan and are focused on hygiene and greater comfort, with features such as warm-water washing, air drying, and heated seats.
Toilet manufacturing firms Toto and Matsushita have released WiFi-connected toilets that measure body mass index, biochemical makeup sugar, protein, flow rate, and temperature of urine.
Scientists at Stanford University have also developed a colour-changing paper test that, with the help of a smartphone camera, can detect diseases or spot signs of a urinary tract infection.
‘At the moment these are a mishmash of technologies rather than a single device, but the aim is to combine them together into a smart toilet,’ added Mr Lindenmayer.
‘The idea is that people will connect their phone to the toilet and get information about their health. If it sees something amiss, then they would go to the doctor for more detailed tests.’
The International Space Station has been testing a device called the Urine Monitoring System (pictured), which collects an individual crew member’s urine (file photo)
WHY DO DIABETICS INJECT INSULIN?
Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas, an organ in your body that helps with digestion.
Insulin helps your body use glucose – which comes from sugar in the food and drink you consume – for muscle energy.
Glucose is initially absorbed by the gut from food and passed into the blood, where the body decides what to do with it.
Insulin makes this decision by regulating how much sugar moves from the blood into the blood cells, muscles or fat cells, where it can be used up or stored.
But diabetes can mean the pancreas does not make any insulin, it doesn’t make enough, or the insulin it does make doesn’t work properly.
This can lead to the levels of sugar in the blood becoming dangerously high or low – which can cause fatigue, feeling hungry or thirsty, or in extreme cases life-threatening coma.
To avoid this and stop blood sugar getting too high, diabetics can inject insulin into their body as a medication to bring their blood sugar down.
The ESA and MIT are currently looking for toilet manufacturing companies who will adapt their technology for use in smart toilets.
Researchers also say that by putting sensors into public toilets, it would allow health officials to track and predict the spread of diseases in communities, giving a vital early warning of outbreaks.
Davide Coppola, project manager of the Space for Sanitation project at ESA, said: ‘We have identified different opportunities for utilising space technologies and data for sanitation.
‘One of those is to establish preventive health information systems by combining health data from toilet smart sensors with satellite Earth observation data.
‘If you have 1,000 smart toilets collectively monitoring certain diseases in an area, you can use space data to fill in the gaps and calculate the likelihood of spread of diseases.
‘There are a number of environmental factors that influence how a disease spreads and can be monitored from space – temperature, for example, or if there is standing water nearby.’
A recent survey has shown that only 62.7 per cent of Brits know what a healthy stool looks like, meaning many of us are unsure about our overall bowel health.