A pilot of a smart bathroom solution in a commercial building has confirmed what women have long suspected: despite being roughly the same size, the ladies’ toilets are being used twice as much as men’s.

The insight is just one finding from a 20-month trial of Caroma’s IoT bathroom solution, which was officially launched this week.

Designed for commercial buildings such as cinemas, airport lounges and shopping centres, Caroma’s Smart Command is the result of five years of research, development and testing. The company believes it has the potential to drastically reduce water consumption and improve building design.

The solution is made up of three physical products — a tap, urinal and toilet — that collect and send data to either a mobile app or to existing building management systems or cloud platforms.

That means a building manager will know immediately if a particular toilet has been used 50 times and needs to be cleaned, or if a valve is leaking. By providing data that hasn’t previously been available to architects and building managers, Caroma’s Innovation Director Dr Stephen Cummings believes the data will improve maintenance and change the way bathrooms are designed.

“The data is going to tell you the story,” Cummings told Which-50.

The data collected by the system was analysed by The Institute of Sustainable Futures at University Technology Sydney and published in a report titled The Bathroom of the Future.

“Analyses of pilot data collected from Caroma’s Smart Command has revealed that real-time performance management ensures faults can be identified accurately and rectified effectively, minimising water leakage, and improving water conservation efforts,” said Professor Stuart White, Head of The Institute of Sustainable Futures.

“Beyond this, bathrooms can be optimised based on actual usage data. For example, based on data from Smart Command, if a building designer knows that the female bathrooms are used twice as much as the male bathrooms, they can allow for extra fixtures in their female bathroom designs for a better user outcome.”

Digital transformation in design

The Australian supplier of bathroom fixtures had to undergo its own transformation to develop a set of smart products and the underlying platform.

While innovation has always been central to Caroma’s story — its designs have reduced the amount of water toilets use by 70 per cent — this was the first time the company has had to consider software design and cyber security.

“This is our first step into IoT. It was all new to us and new to the plumbing industry to go into IoT,” Cummings said.

“We went on a journey … It’s a totally different process to the way we develop our products normally.”

While the traditional design process would involve developing a product, testing it and sending it out the door, IoT products were a little more volatile. One change could introduce a new set of problems.

Coming out the other side, Caroma’s innovation lead Dr Cummings — who is the inventor of the dual flush toilet — said the company has got to where it is today by developing its own skills in-house and working with partners.

“For a water-based company to get into electronics and to get to the level of sophistication we are at, that’s very challenging,” he said. “We haven’t got total capabilities within the company, when required we get experts in to help us as well.”

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