While this headline, and maybe the story itself, reads like a joke, there’s something to be said for being the first to put technology in a new space. At the moment, it’s predominantly Asian nations that have chosen to upgrade their public restroom technology with everything from flat-screen TVs to facial recognition software. But who knows, we could be next.
China is at the forefront, where it’s relatively easy to find restrooms with television screens in every stall and Wi-Fi fitted throughout. China has already committed to upgrading 57,000 public bathrooms with a range of technologies. This could be a potential gold mine for commercial integrators, even if it’s a few years off.
Our sister site Commercial Integrator Europe found some of the most interesting technologies popping up in public bathrooms across the world. Here are just a few.
Digital Signage Advertising
Digital signage screens for advertising purposes are almost everywhere, so it’s only natural that they creep their way into the bathroom. It’s predominantly been a technology that has taken Japan by storm, although it’s now growing in the Western world.
Captive Media Ltd announced in 2015 that it hoped to have 1,500 screens deployed above urinals in major cities across the globe, having started with just 60 in London. The company estimates that each screen achieves around 800 ad impressions per week. In a network of 1,500 screens, that’s the potential for 1.2 million impressions per week.
It’s not just static advertising that companies are exploring with urinals. Captive Media is utilizing an interactive element to further engage men. Simply by aiming their flow at targets, men are able to play games displayed on the screens above the urinal. Gaming giant Sega has rolled out a similar system in Japan.
Bars, clubs, restaurants, bus stops, phone boxes – they’re all locations where public Wi-Fi is being installed. In some countries, free Wi-Fi is now rolling out to public restrooms too, which is not all that surprising.
According to research, 75 percent of people use their phones while in the bathroom. It’s likely that those users will find access to free Wi-Fi a godsend.
Some residents near the public restrooms equipped with free Wi-Fi are concerned that people may linger in the stall for a little longer than necessary, however. Thankfully, some restrooms in South Korea have a solution.
Stall Availability Display
Standing in a queue waiting for an available stall isn’t the most enthralling of experiences, which is why one restroom in South Korea features an information display with real-time availability.
Rather than having to sneakily peek under the door to see if a stall is available, visitors to this public restroom are able to simply wait outside and watch the display. When a stall is free, it will immediately turn green, allowing the next person to go about their business.
The display is not only a godsend for locals that are caught short in a public place, but also for international visitors. Like other Asian nations, many of South Korea’s public restrooms are equipped with squat toilets – something Western visitors may not be used to. Thankfully, each stall is marked on the display with a toilet type – meaning those uncomfortable with squat toilets will be able to find something a little more familiar.
In addition to showing the stall type and availability, the display also showcases the current temperature outside and the humidity – helpful for those who have to wait outside for someone else.
Flat Screen Entertainment
Watching TV on the toilet is a comfort many people enjoy in the boundaries of their own home, but in China, flat screen TVs are being installed in stalls to entertain the public.
While one would hope that those using the toilet in a public place won’t have enough time to watch an entire episode of Game of Thrones, the Chinese authorities are hoping that users will have a better time in a public toilet than they would at home.
Digital Vending Machines
It may not be entirely natural to feel peckish while sitting on the toilet, even though we know some of you have eaten in the bathroom before. Now some Chinese toilets are installing vending machines which will dish out everything from soft drinks to snacks.
As China is hoping to lead a toilet revolution using technology, these vending machines aren’t the normal affair that users would find in public restrooms. Those typically take coins and dispense everything from condoms to male enhancement pills. These vending machines are a little more sophisticated, using a touchscreen to allow users to make their selection and boasting support for mobile payments. There also isn’t a male enhancement pill in sight.
Toilet Paper Dispenser With Facial Recognition
While China’s toilet revolution is all about making public toilets more inviting and entertaining, one bathroom in the nation is utilizing technology in a completely different way. That’s because a Beijing restroom equipped a toilet paper vending machine with a facial recognition camera.
While toilet paper is something that one would expect from any public toilet, this particular restroom had to contend with toilet paper thieves – costing the authorities money. To combat these callous thieves, the facial recognition camera will only distribute two-foot of toilet paper per user in a nine-minute period. Some have called that length insufficient.
Thus far the machine has experienced a number of technical glitches too, leaving people unable to clean up. Thankfully staff have been on hand to manually distribute toilet paper.
Then there are also other concerns, including the privacy of users who just want to go about their business in peace.
See more AV projects, presumably in more normal places, here.
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