PHOTO: FARRIN ABBOTT

There’s a smart toilet in the lab of Sanjiv (Sam) Gambhir, MD Ph. At first glance, it might look like an ordinary toilet, fitted with gadgets and wires. But, the smart diagnostic device can detect a range of disease markers in stool and urine, including those of some cancers.

Motion sensors (don’t think too much about what kind of motion) tell the device when to deploy a mixture of tests that assess the health of any... deposits. Urine samples undergo physical and molecular analysis; stool assessment is based on physical characteristics.

The Internet-connected toilet automatically sends data extracted from any sample to a secure, cloud-based system for safekeeping (allowing users to track and analyze their own… movements). In the future, the system could integrate into any healthcare provider’s record-keeping system.

Gambhir envisions a smart toilet in every home bathroom. To facilitate broad adoption, smart aspects are add-ons that can integrate into any old throne. These extensions sport an array of health-monitoring technologies that look for signs of disease. Urine and stool samples are captured on video and processed by algorithms that distinguish normal urodynamics and stool consistencies from unhealthy ones.

Alongside physical stream analysis, the toilet deploys urinalysis strips to measure certain molecular features. White blood cell count, consistent blood contamination, and certain levels of proteins can point to a spectrum of diseases. In its current stage of development, the toilet can measure 10 biomarkers.

For those who share the same bathroom, the smart toilet has a built-in identification system, using cameras to identify users by… well, unique personal traits.

“The whole point is to provide precise, individualized health feedback, so we needed to make sure the toilet could discern between users, so we made a flush lever that reads fingerprints,” Gambhir says.

However, fingerprints aren’t quite foolproof. What if one person uses the toilet, but someone else flushes it? Or what if the toilet auto-flushes?

So, a small scanner images the polar opposite of facial recognition; a camera scans the anus.

“We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique,” Gambhir says. The scans – both finger and non-finger – are used purely as a recognition system to match users to specific data, and no one will see the scans.

By no means is this toilet a replacement for a doctor, or even a diagnosis, Gambhir says. In fact, in many cases, the toilet won’t ever report data to the individual user. In an ideal scenario, should something questionable arise – such as blood in the urine – an app fitted with privacy protection would send an alert to the user’s healthcare team, allowing professionals to determine the next steps.

As Gambhir and his team continue its development, they’re focusing on increasing participants, integrating molecular features into stool analysis, and refining technologies already working.

Gambhir’s other goal is to further develop molecular analysis for stool samples.

Stanford Medicine
http://med.stanford.edu