Smart bathroom technology offers unrivaled opportunities for the automated measurement of a range of biomarkers and other data. Unfortunately, efforts in this area are mostly driven by a technology push rather than market pull approach, which decreases the chances of successful adoption. As yet, little is known about the use cases, barriers, and desires that potential users of smart bathrooms perceive.
We performed a study aimed to investigate how participants from the general population experience using a smart sensor-equipped toilet seat installed in their home, to contribute to answering the following questions: What use cases do citizens see for this innovation? and What are the limitations and barriers to its everyday use that they see, including concerns regarding privacy, the lack of fit with everyday practices, and unmet expectations for user experience?
Overall, 31 participants from 30 households participated in a study consisting of 3 (partially overlapping) stages: sensitizing, in which participants filled out questionnaires to trigger their thoughts about smart bathroom use and personal health; provotyping, in which participants received a gentle provocation in the form of a smart toilet seat, which they used for 2 weeks; and discussion, in which participants took part in a web-based focus group session to discuss their experiences.
Participants mostly found the everyday use of the toilet, including installation and dismantling when necessary, to be relatively easy and free of complications. Where complications occurred, participants mentioned issues related to the design of the prototype, technology, or mismatches with normal practices in using toilets and hygiene. A broad range of use cases were mentioned, ranging from signaling potentially detrimental health conditions or exacerbations of existing conditions to documenting physical data to measuring biomarkers to inform a diagnosis and behavioral change. Participants differed greatly in whether they let others use, or even know about, the seat. Ownership and control over their own data were essential for most participants.
This study showed that participants felt that a smart toilet seat could be acceptable and effective, as long as it fits everyday practices concerning toilet use and hygiene. The range of potential uses for a smart toilet seat is broad, as long as privacy and control over disclosure and data are warranted.
Now published in JMIR Human Factors, 2023;10:e44850: doi:10.2196/44850