Guess how smart your bathroom can get?

IBM announced recently that the professional division of Kimberly-Clark, maker of such household brands as Kleenex and Huggies, has adopted IBM Cloud to create a facilities management app that helps clients better monitor and manage restrooms remotely, lowering costs and improving consumer experiences.

Kimberly-Clark Professional’s new Intelligent Restroom app was built using IBM Bluemix development platform and through the use of the IBM Internet of Things Foundation service, facilities managers collect data and alerts from sensors integrated into restroom amenities, from soap dispensers to air fresheners, as well as non-amenities like entrance doors. All the data is managed and monitored through a central dashboard that can be viewed on desktops or mobile devices remotely.

In pilot tests of the Intelligent Restroom, Kimberly-Clark Professional has been able to reduce the amount of supplies used in the restroom by up to 20 percent.

According to Bryan Semkuley, Vice President of Global Innovation at Kimberly-Clark Professional. “We wanted to help our clients reduce tenant churn, lower costs, and improve the customers’ experience along the way. That’s when we turned to innovations in cloud and IoT from IBM that can be operated from facilities managers’ smartphones.”

“Kimberly-Clark Professional products are used by one fourth of the world’s population on a regular basis,” said Rachel Reinitz, IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO, IBM Bluemix Garage. “IBM Cloud, from development platform through IoT, enabled them to develop and deploy the innovative Intelligent Restroom from the ground up.”

Will the connected bathroom be coming to your home?

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If you are curious whether such technology extends to the home, the answer is yes…and no. IoT company RollScout launched a (failed) crowdfunding effort in 2014 for a connected toilet roll holder, relying on sensor technology, to notify folks when the toilet roll needed to be replenished. When the level of paper on the roll fell below a certain level, a warning system was turned on, a pulsing ring of amber light bright enough to be noticeable even in daylight conditions along with a corresponding app. The company was offered the devices from $79 to a gold-plated version for $149. Unfortunately, they never went to market. An idea before its time?

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Predictably, connected toilets also exist. In Japan, there’s the Satis, a connected toilet where an app can enable the lifting of the toilet seas or a flush. The app also lets the user maintain a diary of toilet use and even play music through built-in speakers.

You can also buy  a toilet with all the bells and whistles courtesy of Panasonic for around $700, complete with a remote control seat lifter and self cleaner. Not surprisingly, there were reports in January this year of connected toilet hacking. According to the UK’s Mirror newspaper,

“Researchers found that one of these high-tech toilets was protected with only a basic password. This meant they could take control of the toilet, allowing them to flush it at an awkward moment or even surprise people by unexpectedly aiming a jet of water at their nether regions”.

Not all that smart really.

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