Smart Sanitation Safeguards Our Cities

31st October, 2018

The Forever Battle We Can Win

Humanity is in a constant battle with infectious diseases.  And our current way of dealing with this is to create vaccines, let our immune system figure it out or head to the clinic when we are losing the fight. 

 

Viruses are relentlessly adapting, adjusting and hunting for cracks in our defense systems to spark disease wildfires. To make matters worst, humans are always playing catch up with viruses.  We rarely spot the first signals that a bad bug is circulating and building up to breakout levels until it already shows up at the clinic level.  And this is a big deal as humans migrate into mega cities, zip around the planet on planes and circulate.  Bad bugs can spread far and fast.   


Smart Sanitation Defense System

There is a humble technology that can help safeguard humanity.  It is the smart toilet.  Imagine a world where we are able to detect the first intruders and spot pending invasions. Smart sanitation systems offer this defense system.   

 

Humans Are Always Bio-Talking

Humans produce a phenomenal amount of health information every time we go to the toilet.  Our microbiome is abundant in all kinds of information that is shared through our fecal matter.  And our urine is rich in biomarkers that can paint a vivid picture of our health. Combined, these two give us the earliest signals of infectious and non-communicable diseases. It is time we start listening to ourselves.

 

What is a Smart Toilet?

A smart sanitation system is one that is equiped with health sensors, syncs with the cloud and integrates with powerful analytical tools. These diagnostic tools can be in the toilet, toilet adjacent or designed into a mini-clinic attached to a community toilet.   A network of smart toilets forms the basis for a smart city platform.  A platform can then tap into the analytical advances in AI, ML, genomics, bioinformatics, pharmacogenetics and behaviorial sciences.  

 

The Advantage of Smart Toilets

Smart toilets offer a number of unique advantages.  Firstly, toilets offer a continuous steam of health data.  Currently, cities have snap shots and snippets of information on themselves.  Secondly, everyone has to go to the toilet whereever they are every single day.  This means that a complete picture can be formed about a city’s health in near real time.  Thirdly, smart sanitation can serve as a resource to those most engaged in preventing, treating and caring for those with an illness.  Finally, it empowers cities to implement what Dr. Mark Cullen of Stanford’s School of Medicine’s Population Health Sciences Center calls precision public health.   

 

The Vanguard of Smart Sanitation:  Pune Municipal Corporation, India 

Smart sanitation sounds like sci-fi, but it is quickly becoming sci-fact.  The Pune Municipal Corporation in partnership with the Toilet Board Coalition joined forces to create the world’s first smart sanitation city. This partnership has resulted in a living test bed for innovations.  And the very first pioneers to venture in are the MIT Media lab, IBM and the European Space Agency.  Each are leveraging their innovation networks and insights to activate the initial Pune testbed. 

 

Major Market Place Emerging 

Smart Sanitation is poised to be a major digital health marketplace.  The Toilet Board Coalition’s report on the Sanitation Economy predicts that smart sanitation is a $6 billion dollar market place in India opportunity. 

The eco-system consists of three broad categories.  The first players sell and install the products required to build the backbone of this smart sanitation system.  These are hardware providers who design and sell sensors, diagnostic devices, connectivity and smart city integrators.  The second are cities and healthcare providers that can provide precision medicine and public health services.  The third are enterprises committed to inventing precision medicines and vaccines.  

 

Smart Sanitation + Digital Health Consortia

To unlock and accelerate the rise of the smart sanitation economy, the Toilet Board Coalition has formed a smart sanitation and digital health consortia.  It is serving in the role as a market place accelerator.  This toilet resource tribe understands that over the next decade, billions of toilets will be installed to reach the 4.4 billion people currently living without proper access to sanitation.  And we know that these toilets can be either dumb or smart.  The shared vision is to make them smart and unleash the digital health marketplace benefits for everyone. 

- Michael TS Lindenmayer, Smart Sanitation + Digital Health Co-Lead of the Toilet Board Coalition