Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

22.1.2021 Technology goes down the toilet - Fairfax Tech Talk Column 234


Over the holidays I have been introducing my kids to some classic TV shows, including Gilligan’s Island. I still haven’t worked out why five passengers took so many bags of luggage on a ‘three hour tour’ and surely Thurston Howell III, with a net wealth of over US$2 billion (according to the Forbes Fictional Rich List), would not take his wife on a cheap tour on a small boat with three strangers. He would have just bought a boat! As for the three others, I don’t know many individuals who would go on an ‘exotic trip’ by themselves.

Enough of my pedantry. What always impressed me was the creativity of the Professor, a high school science teacher with a Ph.D. His wide-ranging technology skills were responsible for most of the technology on the island – although he never could seem to find a way to patch the hole in their boat!

In Episode 66 when the Skipper finds himself too weak to lift firewood, the Professor somehow manages to perform a blood test and determines that the lack of citrus fruits in the Skipper’s diet has caused a severe vitamin deficiency.

Well if only the Professor had instead built a smart toilet, he would have known about the deficiency long before the Skipper had exhibited any symptoms. It may seem that putting the word ‘smart’ in front of any device suddenly makes it more marketable but, in this case, smart toilets could truly revolutionise the way we view our health.

There are many companies around the world that provide the service of analysing your stool. Send in a sample along with some money (in separate envelopes) and you will receive a report that will give you more information than you ever thought possible from just a simple poo. Digestive enzymes; pH levels of the gut; detection of pathogenic organisms; separate bacteria (good and bad); diseases of the digestive tract and liver; bowel cancer; protein levels; fats; salts and more. There are two problems with this approach. For a start, it isn’t fun. Taking your own poo sample and then packaging it up to send it off would be enough to dissuade most people from even considering this option. Secondly, it is expensive. Most organisations charge several hundred dollars per sample.

Drop in the smart toilet! Now every time you go to the toilet your ‘output’ is analysed. Open up an app on your phone and you can see your vital information recorded and tracked over time. The app gives you recommendations on changes that would improve your gut health and you can see the results of those changes the next time you visit the toilet. For example, the app may recommend you add more salmon to your diet. If you add more salmon, that recommendation should disappear from the list when next you visit the loo.

The greatest advantage I see in a smart toilet as opposed to other health devices is that you don’t have to change what you do to collate the information. Other health devices may require you to record your food or enter details. There is one thing that everyone must do – and that is go to the toilet. If each and every time you visit the commode your health is being analysed, you are much more likely to take action based on the information you are given.

With the castaways on Gilligan’s Island surviving mainly on a diet made up of fish and coconut cream pie, tell me what you think the smart toilet would have found in the poo samples of the castaways at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson