There’s nothing glamorous about a public restroom. That’s probably why 60% of Americans flush the toilet using their feet, 48% close the door with their rear-end and 39% use elbows whenever possible to avoid hand contact. Despite that, public restrooms could become big business for commercial integrators – with certain locations now pimping out their toilets with everything from flat screen TVs to free Wi-Fi.
At the moment it’s predominantly Asian nations that have chosen to kit out their public restrooms. 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. The Government has committed £233bn of public money towards the project, and it could be a potential gold mine for commercial integrators. Whether it’s outfitting the bathrooms with digital signage for advertising opportunities, integrating a robust Wi-Fi network or even equipping a toilet paper dispenser with facial recognition technology.
Commercial Integrator Europe found some of the most interesting technologies that are popping up in public bathrooms across the world, and here’s 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 1.2m impressions per week.
It’s not just static advertising that companies are exploring with urinals either. Captive Media is utilising an interactive element to further engage men. Simply by aiming their flow at targets, men are able to play games that are 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% 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, although 8% of people admit that they’ve eaten in the bathroom. In that vein, 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 toilets. 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’s also not 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 utilising 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. There are also other concerns, including the privacy of users who just want to go about their business in peace.