Yes, your continuous health monitoring Internet of Things (IoT) wrist wrapper well may track your sleep quality and how many calories you burn, but answer me this: does it stick artificial intelligence (AI) sensors up in your business to capture your urine flow and the Sistine Chapel-esque glory of the unique-as-a-fingerprint biometric that is your anus?
Doubtful. The world has never seen a smart toilet like this, which is described in a new study from Stanford University that was published in Nature Biomedical Engineering on Monday.
Sure, you can get a “smart” toilet that offers ambient colored lighting, wireless Bluetooth music sync capability, heated seat, foot warmer, and automatic lid opening and closing, but regular, not-all-THAT-smart-after-all toilets can’t diagnose disease.
This one can, Stanford scientists claim. It uses an array of sensors to measure your excreta, which means that yes, it can tell when your waterworks are on and will happily extend a dip stick into your babbling brook in order to conduct uranalysis. It will also use AI to scan and analyze images of your stools.
In fact, it will capture both your pee and your stools on video and process them with algorithms that Stanford News says “can distinguish normal ‘urodynamics’ (flow rate, stream time and total volume, among other parameters) and stool consistencies from those that are unhealthy.”
Isn’t Urodynamics the name of a boy band?
Your urine can reveal multiple disorders. The dip sticks can be used to analyze white blood cell count, consistent blood contamination, and certain levels of proteins, among other parameters that can signify a spectrum of diseases, from infection to bladder cancer to kidney failure. The study’s senior author, Dr. Sanjiv “Sam” Gambhir, says that at this stage of development, the toilet can measure 10 different biomarkers.
The research comes out of the lab of Dr. Gambhir – a PhD, Stanford professor and chair of radiology. He told Stanford News that the toilet is a perfect continuous health monitoring devic – better than wearables because, unlike your smart watch, you can’t avoid it:
The thing about a smart toilet … is that unlike wearables, you can’t take it off. Everyone uses the bathroom—there’s really no avoiding it—and that enhances its value as a disease-detecting device.
You won’t have to go broke buying this smart toilet whenever it may become commercially available. Gambhir envisions it as part of an average home bathroom, with the sensors being an add-on that’s easily integrated into “any old porcelain bowl.”
It’s sort of like buying a bidet add-on that can be mounted right into your existing toilet. And like a bidet, it has little extensions that carry out different purposes.
Gambhir says that the upcoming number two version of the toilet will integrate molecular stool analysis and refine the technologies that are already working. His team is also working to customize the toilet’s tests so as to fit a user’s individual needs. For example, a diabetic’s smart toilet could monitor glucose in the urine. Another example: those with a family history of bladder or kidney cancer could benefit by having a smart toilet that monitors for blood.
Measuring the Fnarr Fnarr factor
The Stanford researchers tested the toilet with 21 participants over the course of several months. To gauge how well users may accept it, the team also surveyed 300 prospective users. About 37% said they were “somewhat comfortable” with the idea, and 15% said they were “very comfortable” with the idea of “baring it all in the name of precision health.”
We are unique snowflakes in so many ways
You can imagine many reasons why people might feel uncomfortable about test strips being automatically extended and inserted into their flows and images being taken of their nether regions. In fact, the toilet has a built-in identification system that scans your anus: a biometric that turns out to be like fingerprints or iris prints, Gambhir said:
We know it seems weird, but as it turns out, your anal print is unique.
The toilet uses both analprints and fingerprints to identify users, which the scientists say is done purely as a recognition system to match users to their specific data. The scans will not be silkscreened and mounted on a wall, Stanford says: No one, not you or your doctor, will see the images.
Why not just identify users via the fingerprint sensors embedded in its flush handle? Because fingerprints aren’t foolproof, the team realized. One user might use the toilet while someone else flushes, or else the toilet may be self-flushing.
You’re storing WHAT in the cloud???
Gambhir says that this toilet isn’t meant to replace a doctor or even a diagnosis. In fact, in many cases, individual users won’t even get to see the data. If the sensors detect something questionable, such as blood in the urine, an app would alert the user’s healthcare team.
… and the data would be stored with “privacy protections” in what the scientists say is a “secure, cloud-based system,” or what we prefer to call “somebody else’s computer.” Unfortunately, when it comes to cloud storage, you know next to nothing about the quality of that computer, or the ethics of the person operating it.
Let us pray that whoever develops a final version of the smart toilet doesn’t royally screw up the storage part, like so many other leaky-storage (no pun intended) providers have done.
One would assume that anus images wouldn’t lend themselves to identity theft or mass surveillance, nor that the FBI would amass an analprint database as massive as the one it has of facial recognition images.
But then, when it comes to biometrics collection, would it be all that surprising? As we recently learned, work’s being done to identify prisoners by their tattoo images, for example.
Gambhir says that data protection is crucial to the research, both in terms of identification and sample analyses:
We have taken rigorous steps to ensure that all the information is de-identified when it’s sent to the cloud and that the information – when sent to health care providers – is protected under [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA], which restricts the disclosure of health care records.
We would be remiss were we to not point out what has been demonstrated time and time again: that Big Data can be dissected, compared and contrasted to look for patterns from which to draw inferences about individuals. In other words, it’s not hard to re-identify people from anonymized records, be they records pertaining to location tracking, faceprints or, one imagines, anuses.
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21 comments on “As if the world couldn’t get any weirder, this AI toilet scans your anus to identify you”
This says that the data is covered by HIPPA when sent to the healthcare providers, but what about the parts between pictures and delivery? Also picture taking toilets are gonna catch children and stuff that children throw in toilets. (Also things that accidentally wind up in toilets).
Additionally, I hope they’re considering the fact that people *clean* toilets.
Now I’m just waiting for the next movie when someone mishears they need to do a Retina scan to enter a building, and drops their pants….. Austin Powers, when is the next film due?
Or maybe MI6/NSA data leak, that they’ve collected millions to identify people, giving away that they use them as spying devices. And with China by policy of documenting everything on everyone,,,, I just can’t.
Last one, police when arresting you may ask you to – turn the other cheek.
Sorry, but clearly this story is worth a butt load of puns.
NB. Do NOT listen to the brand new week’s podcast, available at https://soundcloud.com/sophossecurity/s2-ep34-can-you-trust-hackers-on-how-not-to-get-hacked and DEFINITELY NOT to the bit starting at 4’10”.
By the way, the toilet paper (I couldn’t help myself there even though it’s a PDF) refers to identification using “the distinctive features of [the] anoderm”. But it’s a bumprint.
When I saw the headline I made two guesses: 1, the toilet was from the same country that gave us Marie Kondo, and 2, the article was written by Lisa.
I batted .500!
Well, yes, well done, touché, but I did NOT write the headline … about the smart head. Fnarr!
The first thing that comes to mind is a quizzical look and the wee thought bubble that reads “Are you Sh*tting me?” Perhaps the researchers have been carried away by flights of fancy. Why on Earth would anyone wish to have let alone use such a device? This really boggles the mind.
For just $32 you can download the, ahem, toilet paper (PDF, ironically) and find out. 14 sheets, errrr, pages and 24 authors all, ah, rolled up into one.
In this current climate of toilet paper rationing, I will have to have my parrot help. me.
“Pieces of eight, pieces of eight… WRRAAAAAWK”
Is your parrot helping you count your ‘booty’?
I would! My 2 cents worth of TMI: My family has digestive cancers on both sides. I’d rather get an early warning when it comes to blood sourced from that darling boa constrictor I call my colon. As a diabetic (TMI x2!), I guess it’s good to see sugar levels in urine, though that’s a pretty dated way to keep track of blood sugar, which is, naturally, better tracked by tracking sugar in the blood as opposed to the urine. However, glucose in urine is a classic diagnostic in the as-yet undiagnosed diabetic. If diabetes or other metabolic disorder syndrome ailments were to run in my family, I’d be keen to keep an eye out for glucose in my kids’ urine.
“Gambhir says that the upcoming number two version of the toilet will integrate molecular stool analysis”
Isn’t that what you would expect a ‘number two’ version to do?
What does it photograph if you stand to pee?
> butT as it turns out, your anal print is unique
I shouldn’t raise such a stink on this point, but I’m rather curious about how large (no pun intended) a sample survey is required to dig in and make this assumption.†
Also curious: how much alcohol was shared among lab researchers in order to foster a discussion containing the phrase, “I’ll bet our sphincters are identifiably unique.”
† not that I’m authoritative enough to call bullsh*t either
More seriously, (and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to catch this):
> If the sensors detect something questionable, such as blood in the urine, an app would alert the user’s healthcare team
Not only is the idea of a health insurance company knowing †† about my butt cancer before I do a morally-backward process, it frightens me more than the already-crappy ††† state our healthcare is already in.
†† of course they’d know before my doctor calls me for an appointment)
††† I didn’t say completely serious
“Wink twice to prove you’re a human.”
Waaaaait a second
Blood in my toilet while I’m peeing is not exactly uncommon (or unhealthy). Is this toilet gonna report on women’s cycles because it’s unable to tell the difference?!
i assumed that the researchers accounted for menses when they specified *consistent* blood contamination. As in, they’re smart enough to know that females’ urine will naturally contain blood, but not over the course of, say, weeks.
Can it cope with the end result of a bad curry? And the deep clean that should follow.
Package received on the day I was assigned this story (some days, I can’t believe how blessed I am): One Deluxe Retrofit Bidet. To Infinity, Curry and Beyond!
With this the term “analysis” finally gets its very genuine meaning.
I was sure this was published on April 1st
I thought so too… surely?
I am laughing my head off, because I know they borrowed this idea from the scene in Monsters vs. Aliens kid movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGnnNj8l7pI&feature=youtu.be&t=6
Butt scan security check to enter the war room. LOL!