The “Smart Toilet”: Getting to the Bottom of Precision Health

River D'Almeida, Ph.D
2 min readApr 15, 2020

Your toilet could soon play a big part in keeping you healthy, thanks to a new “smart toilet” technology developed at Stanford. Before you flush, information from waste products gets scanned for biomarkers of cancer and other diseases, with the data being transmitted to a secure, cloud-based storage network.

The device itself can be fitted to any ordinary toilet and uses an array of integrated processes from motion sensors to video analysis software to scope for abnormalities or changes in the deposited biological samples. Multiple parameters from the flow rate, volume, and textural properties can provide a wealth of information, comparing them to datasets collected from healthy participants and flagging the first signs of inconsistencies.

This high-tech lavatory is capable of taking routine diagnostic monitoring to a molecular level, with its suite of dipstick tests that can pick up signs of infection, protein levels, bleeding and even cancer.

“Subsequent models of the smart toilet could even feature customizable, individualized tests, enabling the user to detect specific molecular parameters, such as blood proteins or glucose.”

Its inventor, professor and chair of radiology Sanjiv “Sam” Gambhir, is optimistic about the device eventually becoming a commonplace feature of bathrooms, saying, “Everyone uses the bathroom — there’s really no avoiding it — and that enhances its value as a disease-detecting device.” At present, Gambhir’s high-tech toilet attachment can detect up to 10 specific biomarkers.

What about households where there are multiple bathroom users? The research team has accounted for this in its design, with a two-fold user identification feature. Firstly, a fingerprint scanner positively identifies an individual when they flush. Another state-of-the-art scanning capability makes sure there is no confusion about where the sample came from — a rear-end camera.

“We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique. The scans — both finger and non-finger — are used purely as a recognition system to match users to their specific data,” says…

--

--

River D'Almeida, Ph.D

Follow me for bite-sized stories on the latest discoveries and innovations in biomedical research.