The Toilet, the App and the Slight Hitch

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We have come a very long way from the garderobe.

You see them on castles here: little rooms built at the very edge of a high floor with a clear drop between it and the moat. And at its foot a hole: not big enough for someone to drop through, but quite large enough for us to jettison the lavatorial.

Can you imagine sitting there, on the edge of a little man made precipice, trying not to look down the hole?

I feel sorry for the pike in the moat.

Technology took that strange mediaeval luxury, and transformed it into what sits in my house: a water closet. A white porcelain networker, linked up chummily to every other toilet in my street. I can push a small discreet flush and everything simply disappears, and the pike are safe to frown another day. Water takes it I know not where and does I know not what to it.

Like a car, I can drive one but I’m a little shaky as to what’s under the bonnet.

And now, with the advent of wireless technology and mobile phones, the toilet has taken another giant leap into the future. And we have even less idea what lies beneath.

Enter Lixil: a multinational company which makes the most amazing toilets. Environmentally friendly, sleek, stylish, they are thrones to thrill to.

And now, you don’t even have to touch them to flush them.

With app MySatis, you can bluetooth the toilet.

Indeed.

You can send short-wave radio transmissions from your phone to the lavatory and it will flush, no hands. Thus leaving you toilet-germ-free, though admittedly your phone is a hotbed of personal pathogens.

And not only that, but you can get the app to lift the toilet lid. I’m serious. And naturally, you can turn on soap, water and air drying when required, though my mind is still coming to terms with the practicality of such a move. And here’s the thing: you can play music.

There’s an app for everything these days.

But we all remember Westworld. Technology can backfire.

It took ethical hackers, Spiderlabs , to lift the lid on the toilet-app travesty, according to BBC News..

They worked out that the pin code for the £3800 toilets  is hard-wired to 0000.

Thus any hacker can make any Satis toilet perform, at will.  “An attacker could simply download the My Satis application and use it to cause the toilet to repeatedly flush, raising the water usage and therefore utility cost to its owner,” it says in its report.

“Attackers could [also] cause the unit to unexpectedly open/close the lid, activate bidet or air-dry functions, causing discomfort or distress to [the] user.”

The thought of someone else being able to control the toilet seat when it is supposed to be my sole domain?

It’s enough to send one running to the nearest castle in search of the garderobe.

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66 thoughts on “The Toilet, the App and the Slight Hitch

  1. Very worrying thoughts. Our plumbing has been created by a Frenchman on acid so I doubt any electronic signals would have any effect. Electronic signals have very little effect on our telephone, so I think the lavatory is safe. Interestingly, Renault chose the name Vel Satis for their least successful car.

    1. That is interesting. I think there’s a play on the word ‘satisfaction’ in there somewhere, but it does smack of trying a little too hard, doesn’t it? Something which does not sit well with toilets.

  2. Brilliant. Reminds me of an experience in Shanghai (cosmopolitan city experience) where an Indian restaurant had a ‘restroom’ with a ‘japanese’ toilet. This throne had an electronic console attached (though I wondered about the need for splashguard as it was situated attached to the seat). From the console one could air dry, lift lid – though how while sitting on? whatever – did not use the time to try out all the possibilities, and washed my hands after in the usual fashion.
    What will they think of next?

  3. Brilliant. Reminds me of an experience in Shanghai (cosmopolitan city experience) where an Indian restaurant had a ‘restroom’ with a ‘japanese’ toilet. This throne had an electronic console attached (though I wondered about the need for splashguard as it was situated attached to the seat). From the console one could air dry, lift lid – though how while sitting on? whatever – did not use the time to try out all the possibilities, and washed my hands after in the usual fashion.
    What will they think of next?

    1. Ha! You have been paying attention, Catterell 😀 I’m thinking this gives the Domovoi (little mischievous house gods for anyone else reading!) a whole new world of scope for indicatinng pleasure and displeasure…

  4. Hmm, with all the poverty in the world, I’m questioning the need for such technology. Then again, not having to touch a public toilet would be a plus indeed, hacked or not…

  5. Kate, while the possibility of this is fascinating, I am so overloaded with technology that I’d be happy to expose myself to a few germs in the interest of doing my necessary. 🙂 The NSA does not need to know when I go to the toilet, or how often, or what possible misdeeds I could have perpetrated from the hypothetically-analyzed content of my stool.

  6. I saw a garderobe in Dublin in the past few weeks. A modern soap dish, toilet roll & loo brush were evidence to the fact it was still in use today. It was at The Honorable Society of King’s Inns on Constitution Hill, Dublin. James Gandon was commissioned in 1800 by King’s Inns, to design the building.

      1. Kate, you would need to phone in advance to arrange a tour of The Kings Inns. Mine was rather special and I am preparing a post about it now.

  7. When I was a small child, I visited an elderly farm relative who had an outhouse and I had to use it. Very scary. It smelled bad, I was afraid I would fall down the hole, and I was warned to watch out for black widow spiders. I heard that in the “old days” people kept Sears Roebuck catalogs out there for toilet paper. Maybe for reading pleasure AND toilet paper. I love modern plumbing. A great gift to humanity.

  8. I read about this on the BBC news the other day, Kate. You’d be a bit perturbed, wouldn’t you, if you were sitting, minding your own business, and someone activated the bidet function. I have to say, even though I find this security flaw hilarious, things are getting a little too automated. Toilet humour included now!

  9. Given a choice between this technological mishmash toilet and a Turkish one, I’ll take the Turkish one every time. And I’ll get stronger thigh muscles in the process 🙂

    1. Bleurgh. Turkish toilets are not my bag, Jennifer, I confess. I am one of those sad people who would prefer life automated than primitive. I’ll end up like Annie Hall in ‘Sleeper’.

      1. Kate, I think I just lost a “friend” b/c I told her I wanted air conditioning. She looked at me like I’d just killed Bambi and told me A/C was one of the things ruining the planet. So I’m not exactly into primitive, but the thought of automation running my life reminds me too much of Hal in 2001. I think I’ll settle on semi-primitive, as long as I can keep my computer and the Internet 🙂

  10. The music makes it tempting though, I’d just be terrible afraid somebody would hack that and make me listen to…well I’d like to decide for myself! You write so well one could almost forget the seriousness of hacking!

  11. I definitely do not want or need a smart toilet, Kate. My downstairs neighbor, a once raging alcoholic who I believe is now either in recovery or dead because I have not heard a peep from him in months, used to go on loud drinking binges and then flush his toilet non-stop prompting one of my friends to refer to him as The Flusher. There have been times when I wished an app would exist to control him … but maybe there has been.

    1. There’s an app for most things, Lame. There’s probably one for bumping off Flushers.Congratulations on your new-found flush-free serenity and calm, whatever its cause.

  12. I love the idea of sleek technology integrating seamlessly into the home. However, I never imagined that it would be used to flush the toilet. The security flaw makes the potential high jinks hilarious and endless. Can’t I have an app that makes my car fly, instead?

  13. How bizarre! I don’t have a Smart Phone . . . or a Smart Toilet. But our throne remains our own. No hackers have access to flush it at will. 😉

  14. Just because we have ideas doesn’t mean we need to act on them! Sounds like a novelty to me, and I don’t think I’d like to consider what happens when the trick goes awry! There is indeed an app for everything! I might like them for public toilets…I might risk the germs to my phone to avoid touching anything there!

  15. While I’m relieved that I don’t have to run out to the outhouse/port-o-john for relief, is nothing sacred? Yes, Kate, I am concerned about technology that can backfire and can be manipulated by someone else. Disturbing thoughts while you should be concentrating on something else …

  16. Because I don’t have a smart phone I don’t have access to any of the Apps so I have to flush the loo the old fashioned way…It works OK. You can also use your foot if you don’t want to touch the handle! (one time one of my co-workers at the museum used her foot to flush the loo her shoe fell in the toilet) 🙂

    Its scary to know that there are people out there who only use their brains to work out how to manipulate inventions to cause harm.

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