Prejudice & ‘Smart’ Latrines

by | Oct 20, 2019 | Development, ICT4D |

I see a lot of adverts for ‘smart’ devices. Obviously, smartphones, but now also ‘smart’ heating, fridges, ovens, lights, sockets, door bells, and many more. Usually it’s about doing something remotely through your phone. And yet, I have not heard of a ‘smart’ toilet yet.

But who knows they might already exist. Maybe there are ‘smart’ portaloos or ‘smart’ latrines. A 5 minute walk from our house is a little stream. Its water level is remotely monitored for flood indicators. This happens all over the UK (and likely other countries too!).

In some of our work with local communities globally, we install water pumps. More and more of these pumps are fitted with sensors. We can remotely monitor if the pump is still working, its flow rate, and even in some cases the water quality. In camp situations where water is trucked in. We can remotely monitor the water levels in the tanks. It may sound ‘fancy’ but it means we know sooner when there is a problem and we need less resources to monitor.

This brings me back to toilets and latrines. Given that we can remotely monitor streams and water tanks, we could apply similar tech to latrines. We could remotely monitor not only the sewage levels in the pit, but also the air quality inside the latrine. And yet I don’t think we do. If you know where this is happening, please contact me and let me know.

I am sure that it is partly related to the fact water is more ‘fun’ than sanitation. But we also know from history (especially in London) that improving sanitation improves health exponentially. Perhaps it’s our prejudice about toilets and sanitation.

It’s unlikely we’ll see a TV advert for ‘smart’ toilets anytime soon. But maybe there is an opening at a trade fair near you…

Photo by Amy Reed


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