The Japanese are known for many things: their cars, food, business…and bathrooms. Evolving from their love of cleanliness, washrooms in Japan are best described as high tech lavatories, with toilet seat lids that lift automatically when you step in, and flushes that activate when you stand up, finished with the spritz of an air purifier.
In Australia, the automated self-cleaning public toilet seems to have lost its allure a few years ago, at least in Victoria, with a Fairfax report in 2006 saying many of the state’s councils were “backing away” from the “experiment that really didn’t work”. The ‘experiment’ included public washrooms such as those in Prahran that played classical music (so you can do your business in private), and had doors that automatically locked and unlocked (reportedly leading to four young children being ‘trapped’ in a Monash council toilet in the span of two years).
And yet, the high-tech bathroom is one that a rising number of Australian homeowners probably wouldn’t mind owning, supported by the growing trend of automated bathroom systems targeted at improving both comfort and efficiency in the home toilet. For instance, this year’s ISH, a leading industry trade fair held in Germany, saw a number of these automated products unveiled under the show’s banner theme of ‘Comfort meets Technology’.
“Integrated electronics are being utilised in the bathroom at an increasing rate,” notes Dr Steve Cummings of Caroma in the ISH Latest Trends Report. “This incorporation is becoming further resolved at the design stage and aesthetically pleasing as opposed to looking like additions to an existing design.”
Here are four high-tech innovations for a smarter toilet:
Kohler’s Moxie Showerhead + Wireless Speaker
Everyone sings in the shower, but not everyone can hold a tune or even remember all the words to the song stuck in our head. The Moxie Showerhead + Wireless Speaker by Kohler combines the delivery of water with music or other audio such as the news. Syncing with Bluetooth-enabled devices including smart phones, laptops and tablets up to 10 metres away, the water-resistant wireless speaker pops in and out of the showerhead for easy recharging – the built in Lithium-ION battery has approximately seven hours of run time.
Available in a polished chrome finish, the product is available in two sizes: a five or eight inch showerhead with a white sprayface featuring 60 angled nozzles for a full coverage, enveloping spray. It has a 3 Star, 9 Litres/min WELS rating, and a seven year warranty for the showerhead, but only one year warranty for the speaker.
Dyson’s Airblade Tap hand dryer
You can wave hand towels and wet floors goodbye with this tap that doubles as a hand dryer. Marketed to public toilets, the Airblade Tap dries hands at the sink in just 12 seconds via HEPA filters that captures 99.9 per cent of bacteria and viruses in the air. The whole process, powered by a Dyson long-life digital motor that is switched at 6,000 times per second, is touch-free, and both the tap and dryer are sensor-operated. The digital motor only has three moving parts, so there are no slip rings or carbon brushes to wear down.
According to LCA results, which compares the product with data taken from US environmental statistics including electricity grid mix and recycling practices, the Airblade Tap produces at least 67 per cent less CO2 than some other hand dryers, and 62 per cent less than paper towers. It has a WELS 6 Star 3.5L/min rating, and a five year guarantee.
RainBrain by Hansgrohe
We’ve all experienced the frustrations of getting the shower temperature just right, but Hansgrohe’s RainBrain innovation gives users control over how hot or cold the water is, as well as spray modes, water volumes, lighting and sound. The electronic shower control consists of four single components controlled by the brain – the function box housing the electronic temperature and water flow control, five magnetic valves to control the shower functions, a power supply unit and the entire electronic control system.
Rinnai’s Deluxe Bathroom Controller
This bathroom controller is used in conjunction with Rinnai’s INFINITY system and has an automatic bath fill function, a shower saver feature where you can pre-set your desired litres, and a digital clock, speaker and volume controls. The Master Controller is usually installed in the kitchen, but up to four controllers can be installed throughout the home.