IoT and Bathrooms: The Biggest Hurdles

Bathrooms have become a highly ritualized part of modern culture. It’s taken hundreds of years as it took rather a long while to bring toilets into houses to begin with. Plumbing was the technology that enabled first the sink and tub and then the toilet. That evolution took a long time. And consider Japan, where often the toilet is still kept in a separate room from the main washing sink and tub. In the West, there have been entire TV shows focused on bathroom renovations. If kitchens play a key role in many cultures round the world, the bathroom holds a close second…but has some odd cultural behaviours and rituals.
Take that episode of Seinfeld where the character George tries to return a book to a bookstore but the employee believes he has read the book in the bathroom and therefore he can’t return it.
This describes the social tension that exists with bathrooms in most of Western society. We see washrooms as a place to get clean, but we also see them as dirty. CPG goods like Lysol or Tilex. Watch the commercials carefully and you’ll see the tension play out, but the dirt plays a very small and short role.
The Hurdle for IoT Devices in the Bathroom
IoT startups and larger companies looking to leverage IoT in the bathroom (I’ve worked with several in the past couple of years), will all have to figure out the ritual and cultural aspects of bathrooms.
A device that hangs in a toilet and analyses urine for infections, cancer, diabetes or other ailments is a very cool idea. The challenge is how people will feel about picking it up out of the toilet to clean it, because it will need cleaning. The same goes for a device hanging in a shower or attached to a faucet.
Presumably, these devices will connect to an app on a smartphone where results are displayed. This also plays into personal privacy. Ablutions are still considered to be a highly personal thing. It’s why we have doors and stalls in public washrooms and while even in an en suite bathroom where we live with our spouse or partner, we close the door. Even in movies, the door gets closed.
While the technologies may be brilliant and incredibly helpful, the biggest hurdle IoT makers for bathroom devices need to consider is cultural behaviours and rituals. There are others to consider, but these are the main ones.
What do you think?

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