An intellient toilet that helps to prevent bowel disease

The toilet developed by Duke University analyses waste and detects potential health problems.

During the three months of quarantine, the home became the space in which we spent the greatest part of our time. Our homes became a place of play, study, work, exercise and everything else you can imagine.

Duing that time, we became aware of the need to turn the home into an intelligent space that improves our quality of life. An intelligent home is one which “possesses the latest devices and services, which are connected to simplify home tasks and to allow you to optimise and streamline certain processes.”

Within these spaces, wearables are presented as the star product because they adapt perfectly to the inhabitants’ needs. Wearables are designed for all ages, from children’s toys to pyjamas for older people that are connected to the home, or even for adolescents and adults who opt for intelligent beds so that they can sleep like babies. Intelligent devices look after you and monitor your health from home.

Due to the amount of time we spend at home and thanks to advances in telemedicine, researchers are working to find convenient and accessible solutions for diesases such as Covid-19, diabetes, respiratory problems, blood pressure or gastrointestinal problems.

Intelligent devices, our allies in the fight against digestive problems

Digestive or gastrointestinal disease is that which harms the digestive system, that is, health problems that affect the aesophagus, the stomach, the large intestine and the colon.

Gastrointestinal conditions affect both adults and children, but thanks to technology, we have the solution at home, specifically in the intelligent toilet that detects bowel disease through the analysis of stools.

The toilet that monitors digestive health through stools

Scientists at Duke University (USA) are developing an intelligent device which they have named the ‘Duke Smart Toilet Lab‘. This object can be incorporated into any toilet and can analyse the stools of any person for the purpose of detecting and treating health problems.

The intelligent toilet provides information to health professionals and improves medical treatment for patients who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease.

Without this device, the information on stools may be confusing and unreliable as, normally, patients don’t remember what their stools looked like or the freqency with which they go to the toilet.

The intelligent device will put an end to this problem: “the intelligent toilet technology will enable the collection data over the long-term, which is necessary to make a more accurate and opportune diagnosis of chronic gastrointestinal problems”, acknowledges Deborah Fisher, one of the main authors of the study and Professor at Medicine at Duke University.

The university study focuses on the technology which collects and analyses both stools and urine. Apart from the collection, it also carries out an intestinal evaluation and provides solutions for improving the health of the users.

Un váter inteligente que detecta y trata problemas de salud. Universidad de Duke
An intelligent toilet that detects and treats health problems. Duke University

How is it used?

The artificially intelligent device is fitted to the toilet plumbing. Once installed, when a person goes to the toilet, the toilet takes a photograph of the stools.

This information, along with other data, is collected and sent to health professionals for a greater understanding of the problem. Among the results obtained are stool quality (if they are nornal, constipated or loose) and if there is any presence of blood. This data will enable a streamlined diagnosis of the patient and offer them the most appropriate treatment.

Analysing photographs with artificial intelligence

In order to develop the tool, the research team analysed a total of 3,328 photographs of stools, which came from the actual reasearch participants, as well as many others they found on the internet. Subsequently, these images were reviewed by the gastroenterologists in accordance with the Bristol scale, a clinical organisation that specailises in the classification of stools.

La escala de heces de Bristol.Cabot Health, Bristol Stool Chart
The stool scale on the Bristol Stool Chart, Bristol Cabot Health

The developers of the intelligent toilet claim that, with the use of a neural convolutional network (a type of specialist algorithm), the images can be analysed and thereby achieve that the device accurately classifies the shape of the stools 84.1% of the time, as well as detecting blood 76.5% of the time.

A prototype in construction

In recent years, the intelligent toilet has been one of the priorities for scientists. Among their objectives is to perfect the content of the samples, and to gain greater understandng of the bacteria that live inside the gut.

Sonia Grego is the lead researcher of the study, as well as being the founder of the ‘Duke Smart Toilet Lab’.

 “With the intelligent toilet it will be possible to diagnose a flare-up of inflammatory bowel disease. This could be really useful for patients that live in health centres long-term and who cannot inform about their conditions. It could help to improve the initial diagnosis of acute pathologies.”

Currently, the intelligent toilet is just a prototye, despite having “promising viability”.

Así es el ciclo del váter inteligente. Universidad de Duke
This is the cycle of the intelligent toilet. Duke University