ROVO, Utah - There's a digital health revolution underway, making it easier for all of us to track our wellness online and with our doctors.
We can monitor our heart rates, our calories and our exercise typically from apps on our phones. Now, a Provo-based company is developing smart toilets to track critical health measurements as part of our daily routine.
"It's been a big project. We've worked on it for 15 years," said David Hall, chairman of Medic.Life and Hall Laboratories in Provo. He said the project is a multi-million dollar project with more than 20 scientists on board. "It's a very exciting project. But it's also very complex."
If you could gauge your health with the flush of a toilet, would you want that kind of checkup? Hall believes that's one answer to better health. After all, everyone has to use the toilet several times a day, so he has developed artificially intelligent toilets that keep an eye on your health each time you visit the Medic.Life Lav.
"It's a regular toilet," he said, as he showed off a prototype toilet with dozens of wires and shiny chips attached to sensors. "But it just has a lot of sensors in it."
The AI toilet has sensors attached to the seat and into to the bowl. Those sensors passively monitor more than 20 key health indicators during every bathroom stop.
"These sensors put together could patch a story together," Hall said. That story should be a more complete tale of wellness than the person is getting today because it includes much more data than they'll ever compile from their trips to the doctor.
"We want individuals to know the key metrics in their health in an ongoing basis in trends, instead of events," Hall said.
The smart toilets they've developed so far will measure your weight when you step up, and when you leave. When you sit down, it takes your skin temperature, pulse rate and heart rate. The waste that you leave will be analyzed first by technology built right into the toilet. Then, it will also be analyzed in the cloud. You will be able to access all of that information on an app on your phone.
"We don't poke you. You don't have to come and see the doctor," Hall said. "You don't have to pee in a cup. You don't have to draw blood. Instead, the sensors do it as a part of your natural day to day activities."
With the Medic.Life Lav people can be proactive with trends in their health, he said, rather than reactive when they get sick. The toilet gives you multiple checkups each week in the privacy of your own home. It could be a tremendous asset for a diabetic tracking their glucose levels, or any of us trying to make sure that we are properly hydrated, or taking medicine as prescribed.
"Use that to change your lifestyle or improve your lifestyle," Hall said. "If you see some alarming things, send it on to your doctor."
They'll start clinical trials soon: testing the toilets in nursing homes and hospitals. The Lav is also a smart toilet that includes a bidet, heated seat, fume extractors, multimedia and is self-cleaning.
"Start using it to figure out its full value," he said.
The inventor said the Medic.Life Lav should be commercially available in two to three years. At about $10,000, the toilets won't be in every home at first. But Hall expects that hospitals and nursing homes may discover that the smart toilets replace expensive tests and eliminate other costs. Hall expects smart toilets with these capabilities to be the norm in 20 to 25 years.
by Jed Boal
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