The future of medicine might start in the bathroom…
Many people will be uncomfortable with the idea of cameras and sensors in their toilets. It may seem like an unthinkable intrusion into what is perhaps the most private of all activities.
But a team of developers at Stanford Medicine in Stanford, CA, believe the clinical benefits of their “smart toilet” could be far-reaching. They are also confident that their toilet can safeguard the privacy of users.
According to AWM:
The toilet camera is also connected to the user’s phone. After analyzing poop, the toilet device then sends the data to the smartphone. The smartphone uses a program that analyzes the images created during the process to see if the stool contains any warning signs of bowel cancer. Within minutes, the smartphone user can get the information and see if it is something they need to worry about – or if they can get back to their day as usual.
Not only can the results be shared directly with the patient’s doctor, but the smartphone-connected camera can also help determine if a colonoscopy or other procedure is necessary. The initial tests of the toilet camera indicate that it is ninety percent effective at locating blood in stools. This means that it can save the lives of people who might be at high risk of developing bowel or colon cancer.
These days, however, paper reading material in the john is probably pretty scarce. A 2015 survey from wireless carrier Verizon shows that 9 out of 10 people bring their smartphone with them to the bathroom.
Technologies that continually monitor a person’s health play a growing role in healthcare.
Existing devices include smartwatches for collecting data, such as heart rate, and wearable blood pressure monitors. A skin patch is in development that tracks movement, heart rate, and breathing.
“The thing about a smart toilet, though, is that unlike wearables, you can’t take it off,” says Prof. Sanjiv Gambhir, chair of radiology at Stanford Medicine. “Everyone uses the bathroom — there’s really no avoiding it — and that enhances its value as a disease-detecting device.”
In the United Kingdom, bowel cancer is very common as it wills upwards of 16,000 people per year. Because one in twenty people is expected to develop the disease over their lifetimes, and those over age fifty are at higher risk, toilet bowl imaging technology could truly help those who are at risk.
OutSense, the maker of the smart outlet, aims to use computer vision to “transform human waste into lifesaving medical insights” through a simple IoT attachment that clips to the side of a standard toilet bowl.
Today, the company announced it has raised $2.2 million from Peregrine Ventures, an early-stage VC firm focused on life sciences. The series A round will allow OutSense to bring the technology closer to market and further develop what it calls the world’s “first and largest database of human waste.”
Meanwhile, David Crosby, head of prevention and early detection research at Cancer Research UK, says:
“This device is an interesting piece of technology, which could allow people to spot early changes to their bowel health, prior to the onset of symptoms. But it is at an early stage of development, and we need peer-reviewed evidence to show that it works.”
Watch the video below for more details: