Emma T. Gaskell

Take a Seat on the Future

Technology that could significantly change the sanitary needs of 2.5 billion people around the world.

Technology. A global invention that, in time, will take over our world completely. It has conquered everything from social networking to controlling the alarm system in our house from the office. What is the next step you ask? Michael Hoffmann is convinced he has the answer to a more sanitary tomorrow. How? Detecting needed repairs on toilets, no manpower necessary.


Technology that can detect a toilet malfunction - Caltech engineers are developing a program that can detect when there is a toilet design malfunction. No maintenance porfessionals needed. Scince Alert

In 2012, Michael Hoffman, led his Caltech engineering team to victory when they won the Gates Foundation's Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. There toilet models represent cheap, safe and hygienic designs to help people in the world who still lack sanitation. Hoffmann has worked on a number of toilet-related projects, including urine removal for the NASA (click here to learn more about urine disposal in space) space shuttle system. But Caltech's latest project could reveal one of his finest ideas which in the end, will positively effect billions of people.

The Caltech engineer team combined solar power and a biochemical reactor to to turn poop and pee into clean, sterilized water. This prototype is not only environmentally friendly but could also positively effect billions of people. So, why wait?! Why are these toilets not spreading across the world yet? Well, Caltech has sent testers to dual locations in India and a third location in China where they will design a toilet inside a recycled shipping container. The team is also planning on sending water treatment technology toilets to schools in South Africa.


eToilet placed in dual locations in India to help with sanitation. - The Caltech enginnering team has one numerous awards for their futuristic, technical toilet design. This design could help over 2 billion people if they succeed. They are so close! Caltech

Despite the toilet models being self-sustainable and sanitary, these prototypes are not ready to become purchase-ready products just yet. There is a point when these types of devices need to be repaired. If these toilets are intended to be used in locations that may not have the money to hire a Mr. Fix It, the maintenance needs to be simple. Therefore, the design must also be simple. This is where Caltech's system app comes in. There is a sensor placed within the toilet that indicates if there is a problem anywhere within the design. This indication goes directly to an operator who can see exactly where the device needs to be fixed, simply by replacing one part. "There's no diagnosis on the operator's part. It's extremely simple, Cody Finke, leader of the software development team mentions, "There's no diagnosis on the operator's part. It's extremely simple. And it doesn't really matter how the part is broken, because in each case, the system is just fixed by replacing the part."

The Caltech engineering team also won the Vodafone Americas Foundation's Wireless Innovation Project challenge with this invention. They will continue refining the app with the prize money. "The difference between technology in the developed world and the developing world is that when things break down in the developing world, they don't tend to get fixed. Even with all the spare parts and instructions, people lack the abilities to repair things, says Finke.''

To learn more about this future toilet project, click here.