Technology has an impact on every area of our lives today – and that includes the washrooms. Jamie Wright from Tork manufacturers SCA shares some insights into the effects of technology on the toilet
Going to the toilet is one of the most basic human functions there is. But like many other aspects of our lives, the humble visit to the loo is becoming increasingly influenced by technology.
We readily accept the impact that technology has on other everyday functions these days. There are any number of calorie-counting and healthy eating apps that help us to improve our diet and nutrition via our smartphone, for example. There are also fitness products that track our sleep – and even apps that monitor our heart rate and help us regulate our breathing.
So it is no surprise to discover that the app culture is quietly taking over in the toilet, too. It seems that anyone with a secret toilet worry can now download an app to help them deal with it.
For example, the Trouble Peeing app makes life easier for people who have difficulty urinating by mimicking the sounds of taps and waterfalls. There are apps designed to help sufferers of frequent urination draw up a “voiding diary” so that they can track their visits to the loo.
Other applications allow washroom visitors to monitor their bowel movements so that they can be aware of any potential health issue. Not only do these apps help the user to record times and dates and take photos of their movements, they also encourage them to upload images on to social media.
There is even an app for cinema-goers who have trouble sitting through a long film without a toilet break. The Runpee app sends a signal to the film buff’s smartphone when a three to five-minute scene containing no important plot twists is about to begin. The cinema-goer’s phone will then vibrate to alert him or her to the fact that it is an ideal time to head to the loo.
Some people have an aversion to visiting public washrooms for fear of contracting an illness in a potentially unhygienic environment. There are now apps and websites designed to direct those people to the nearest clean, peer-reviewed toilet wherever they happen to be.
The Great British Public Toilet Map for example will not only highlight the handiest toilet, it will also provide information on whether a fee will be levied; if it has an attendant and what the opening hours are. Then there is the Toilet Finder app which provides information about more than 120,000 public toilets worldwide and can also be used via the Apple Watch.
And at the heart of all this technology is the smartphone, of course – our new constant companion.
According to a study carried out by Sony and O2 at least 75 per cent of people in the UK take their phones into the toilet with them. Since this research was carried out in 2013 the number of UK smartphone users has increased by more than 14 per cent, so this figure is now likely to be considerably higher.
A second survey carried out the same year revealed that under-30s were spending an average of one minute and 39 seconds longer in the loo than the over-55s. Using depth sensors and motion-mapping technology, the Ideal Standard bathroom manufacturing company behind the study concluded that younger people were spending this extra toilet time on social media websites.
While many are no doubt chatting to friends, others are uploading images –and not necessarily of the contents of the toilet, either. It has become an increasing trend for people to post pictures of away-from-home washrooms on to websites that highlight the good and the bad as well as the plain unhygienic.
Instagram is crammed with images of toilets that have been uploaded by people who are keen to share their every experience. One user calling themselves “Trap Adviser” has attracted more than 700 followers by posting images of noteworthy washrooms in London restaurants.
Meanwhile, the internet is awash with blogs about washrooms around the world – particularly the weirder and more wonderful ones. Images of urinals in the shape of mouths, tubas and even coffins can be seen all over the net. While some of these blogs are likely to have limited audiences, others – such as the Bookatable Top 10 Best Restaurant Toilets in London blog, for example – potentially have considerable influence and may help venues to attract new custom.