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Scientists developing ‘smart toilet’ to process urine samples into health data

(NBC15)
Published: Nov. 15, 2019 at 4:49 PM CST
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A team of scientists at the Morgridge Institute for Research at UW-Madison is working to develop a smart toilet.

“Some people think we’re crazy,” said Coon Lab staff scientist Ian Miller. “But I think we’re on to something.”

Josh Coon, the Thomas & Margaret Pyle Chair at the Morgridge Institute and a UW-Madison Professor, said his team became interested in the toilet as a way to collect health samples.

“Because you make daily deposits of valuable health information, the idea is that when you urinate, if we could look at what’s in there, we could tell a lot about how you’re doing health wise,” said Coon.

The toilet would pump out a urine sample away for analysis and the scientists are calling the concept a toilet revolution.

“It’s an opportunity to revolutionize toilets once again by allow it to not just dispose of waste but give you access to your health information,” said Ben Anderson, a UW-Madison Chemistry graduate student.

Some of the available information is alcohol consumption, caloric intake, and how quickly a person metabolizes certain medicine.

“This way you could monitor that throughout the course of your daily life,” said Coon. “We think that could really change healthcare and preventative medicine.”

Similar to a smart watch, the information would be readily available via an enabled phone or device and people wouldn’t have to change their routine or habits.

“The reason the watch is so powerful is you don’t have to do anything different,” said Miller. “People wore watches before, but all of the sudden we have access to this data.”

Coon, Miller, and Anderson are about three months out from developing a prototype. They hope to expand their sample size to a larger audience to analyze more data.

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