Nowadays we are being increasingly supported by the provision of new and rapidly changing
technologies that aim at making our day-to-day life easier. Surprisingly, there is one very common
appliance which we use several times a day which has not changed since its invention: our toilet.
The most commonly used toilet in the western society is the “sitting type” toilet. Considering the diversity of human beings and the different needs and preferences in the area of personal hygiene, it is to emphasise that there are significant number of shortcomings of common standard toilets. These shortcomings can be very problematic and can represent huge barriers for older persons and persons with limited mobility. Studies have shown that a significant number (nearly 25%) of older persons’ state that when using a toilet they are always afraid that something could happen to them (e.g. falling). More than 50% agreed that it applies at least to some extent that they avoid going out longer in order not to need to use (an inadequate) toilet.
The iToilet proposal addresses these needs of older (or physically challenged) persons when using a toilet by envisioning a supportive ICT enhanced toilet adapting to the individual user needs of older end-users. The project also addresses the needs of care persons when providing assistance to primary users in the toilet room.
Figure 1: The iToilet project: Tackling user needs to create an ICT enhanced toilet that supports older persons living at home an independent and active life
iToilet develops an advanced integrated prototype of an assistive toilet that is able to adjust its height and tilt according to user preferences. It will be equipped with a state of the art ICT system including sensors (e.g. position, movement, weight), inference of normal and abnormal situations (e.g. a fall) and integrated modules for speech input and automatic adaption of the toilet to the individual needs of the current user. The iToilet toilet system also will provide emergency call procedures and interfaces to care documentation systems. This vision of the project’s objectives and motivation was co-created among an RTD partner, a USER partner and an SME partner of the iToilet consortium.
Figure 2: Rendering how an iToilet equipped toilet room might look like
The envisaged toilet system will bring benefit to:
While the iToilet project focuses on supporting older persons living at their own home, the exploitation considers not only the private but also institutional market and care provision services. The commercialisation of the prototype foresees a modular product which allows offering customisation of the product functionality according to the individual customer’s needs and wishes. This concept is also sustainable as it allows adding future developments (e.g. assistance for persons with dementia).
Beside the commercial exploitation, the final project prototype and the gained knowledge will also be used for further RTD activities beyond the completion of the project, e.g. guidance for mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
iToilet follows a strictly user centred approach. The user involvement covers among others participative design, laboratory trials and evaluation of the prototype system in the field. The two user sites located in in Austria (Vienna) and Hungary (Budapest) will carry out this task.
The intention is to develop a toilet system for private and for institutional use. Field evaluation in an institutional setting ensures the involvement of a relevant number of end-users living at home with a significant diversity while at the same time guaranteeing professional support by experienced experts.
The ICT enhanced assistive toilet module is the core. Around this core, the consortium plans to set up several services. These services (e.g. care documentation, fall detection) bring added value for institutions and the formal care personnel in institutions as well as for end-users in a private setting (e.g. fall detection service including connection to emergency centres; inference of long term usage changes of toilet use) The consortium brings in outstanding experience in AAL research, as well as knowledge of the national and European sanitary market and market share. The user partner NIMR is a well-known hospital with high expertise in rehabilitation research in Hungary. CS is a large care provider in Vienna operating stationary care stations, offering mobile care in private homes, running day care centers supporting older persons living independently at home. The clients and professionals of CS have long term experiences with a basic version of height and tilt adjustable assistive toilet and are the originator of the iToilet project vision as they expect an even bigger added value if the current version is enhanced with the additional functionality.