Public bathrooms have a problem, and the internet of all things might be able to solve it.
You know how it goes. When you need to go, you wander through dozens of stalls, peeking beneath doors for feet. Or, you push on said doors, annoying the stalls’ occupants, and risking a mortifying encounter if the door’s unlocked.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) announced Wednesday that it is piloting a Smart Bathroom system that will help eliminate such bathroom woes.
The system, called “Tooshlights,” indicates via bathroom lighting when a stall is occupied and when it’s not. The new bathroom features a green light bulb outside each stall. When a stall’s door locks, its corresponding bulb turns red.
Earth-shattering? No. Gimmicky? Absolutely. But Tooshlights founder and president Allen Klevens believes it still solves an important problem.
“Everybody that I’ve spoken to over the years, everybody’s had this issue,” Klevens said in a phone interview. “Either you’ve been on the one side of the stall and somebody’s tried to walk in and you feel uncomfortable, or you’ve been on the outside and people are standing there and waiting to see who comes out of the stall when there could be three or four stalls available.”
“We’ve received email after email saying ‘Thank you,'” he added.
The new connected smart locks also record data about their use, which airport staff can use over the long term. For example, LAX officials can use the system to track how often each stall is used at what time, and evaluate how well their restrooms are meeting demands. This can help them optimize restroom layout, size, and cleaning schedules, which could lead you to a quicker, cleaner pee down the line.
In emergency-evacuation situations, the data will also inform officials how many people are still in the bathroom, and where they are.
To be brutally honest, this system is unnecessary.
That said, most smart devices are, currently, not necessities. Nobody needs a smart bathroom, just like nobody needs a TV you can turn on with your voice. But such devices have the potential to make life easier in small, unexpected ways, while bringing us new insight into the way our devices are used. If a system is relatively low-cost and low-effort to assemble, why not take the leap?
When it comes to smart home, the bathroom is something of a frontier. Of the most popular smart home products to date, almost none are designed specifically for the bathroom (although Kohler’s lineup is rolling out as we speak). But if there’s one thing a good smart home product can do, it’s solve a problem that nobody realized they had.