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ISAST LEONARDO, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 199,207-210, June 2003 (PDF)

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Intelligent Bathroom Fixtures and Systems: EXISTech Corporation's Safebath Project

Steve Mann

This paper describes new approaches to the de-sign of automatic bathroom O""xtures, as well as their control and management through the use of new computer-vision and image-processing technologies. The networked plumbing systems described here can help facility managers monitor the operation of various bathroom complexes from a central remote location.



By using video-based sensors, the intelligent bathroom provides a safe, hygienic environment that responds automatically to the needs of the user. Concomitant functions, such as security, drowning prevention and other safety features, are feasible  in  the  intelligent bathroom.  It  is  expected that  the beneO""ts of the automation of O""xtures will cause sensors to be installed in virtually all bathrooms of the future.

It is also expected that the most economical sensors will be mass-produced single-chip video cameras, which currently cost only $10 U.S. in bulk quantities. Once these cameras are installed in most bathrooms, new uses, such as the automationof lighting, bathroom-door openers, distress calls in case of

slip-and-fall injuries, and detection of vandalism, will become possible.

Sensor systems used in many of EXISTech Corporation's research prototype bathroom facilities employ standard video cameras with their infrared blocking O""lters removed to makethem  sensitive  to  infrared  light.  Because  they  are  massproduced, these cameras cost much less than the specialized sensors commonly used for automatically R'ushing toilets and urinals. Additional cost savings are introduced by the fact that a single video camera can monitor a number of O""xtures. For example, one video camera can monitor a whole row of urinals to ensure that they R'ush only if they have been used. Intelligent computer-vision systems can monitor optical trafO""c R'ow patterns, so that a weak R'ush is used when others are standing in line to use a urinal, whereas a stronger R'ush is provided after the last of a group of users has O""nished.

Intelligent video-based sensor technology will reduce initial installation costs as well as operating costs compared with those of other sensor technologies.

Camera-based sensors can provide a much more intricate and sophisticated form of control because they can detect user behavior, usage patterns, trafO""c R'ow patterns, and other attributes not trackable using traditional bathroom sensors.

Various  optical  elements  are being used in EXISTech Corporation's experimental bathrooms [1]. For  example,  ceiling domes  that provide the sensor with a wide O""eld of view are being used for controlling a large number of bathroomO""xtures with a single sensor. Many

of the least expensive cameras have wide-angle lenses. A camera with a O""sh-eye lens can be placed on the ceiling of a shower room so that it can monitor the entire room, and thus automate many show-ers. Such a single sensor could be placed beyond the risk of

vandalism, soap-scum buildup or other problems that could arise if sensors were distributed along the walls of the shower room, one sensor per showerhead.

Users  of  the  intelligent bathroom  will  enjoy  a  nice  hot shower without having to adjust the temperature or even touch anything at all. Users will simply step into the viewing area,

(C) 2003 ISAST LEONARDO, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 207-210, 2003 207

A B S T R A C T EXISTech Corporation's computer networks, control systems and image-sensor technology facilitate hygienic touchless control of plumbing O""xtures. Two of EXISTech's sensors are described here in detail: an active infrared faucet sensor and a passive infrared autoR'ush sensor. These devices allow internetworked plumbing systems to help facility managers and law-enforcement personnel remotely monitor the operation of bathroom O""xtures. Intelligent O""xtures and systems based on quantimetric sensing technology enhance the privacy of law-abiding users by eliminating the need for invasive policing of restrooms. New computer-vision algorithms also automatically detect accidents, as well as vandalism and contraband disposal, to assist remote monitoring by law enforcement.

Steve Mann (mediocrat), 284 Bloor Street West, Suite 701, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 3G4. E-mail: .

Fig. 1. Data output from sensor-operated gooseneck faucet, with an infrared emitter and infrared detector inside the spout. ((C) S. Mann) The infrared detector returns a byte array having 240rows and 320 columns. Representing the numerical values in the array as shades of grey allows a view of the detection zone, includ-ing the hands of a user. A small part of the spout (visible at the bottom of the array), as well as most of the sink, is visible to theinfrared sensor. Note also the specular highlights from the infrared source that is built into the sensor.

composed of several detection zones, and the  shower  will  activate.  Instantly,  out comes water at the perfect temperature! When a user steps away to lather up with soap, the water turns off. When the user steps toward the spray head for a rinse, the water turns on again.

Moreover, maintenance and installation are simpliO""ed by having one image sensor  controlling  many  shower  spray heads. The one image sensor may provide  other  features  such  as  automaticwarnings to building staff if a person has

slipped and fallen, automatic recognition of users' faces and water tempered to the preference of each user. The video-based motion-detection sensor will also act as a deterrent to crime and vandalism in theshower room. In addition, multiple spray

heads at each station  can spray  a  user with water in such a way that very little is wasted.  A  beam  pattern  of  spray  can adapt to the position and orientation of the user's body.

EXISTech's  intelligent  bathroomcontrol systems can be reprogrammed to respond to users in slightly different ways, and therefore user behavior can be modiO""ed slightly. Through slight modiO""cations  in  user  behavior,  efO""ciency  and restroom  throughput (through-trafO""cR'ow management) can be increased to make the facility run more efO""ciently. For example, the system might detect that, in a  row  of  hand  faucets,  one,  perhaps somewhat hidden from view, is used ex-cessively during certain times of day. It

might  be determined  that  a  homeless person is using it for hair-washing purposes. The system can detect this pattern of deviant use and correct it by adjusting the timing on that particular O""xture sothat it will time out sooner than the others. This would effectively move that user to another faucet. Thus slight changes in system parameters can be used to effect slight changes in user behavior.

Data output from an infrared sensor-operated faucet is shown in Fig. 1. The

numerical values are represented in the array as shades of grey to allow us viewing of the detection zone.

The sensor produces its own source of light, so that it operates irrespective of ambient light (or any light--it will also work in a completely dark room). The faucet's processor runs GNU Linux and is connected to the Internet for remote maintenance and monitoring.

A  central  computing  facility  at  an undisclosed branch of EXISTech's head-quarters monitors a worldwide network

of bathroom facilities. However, each O""xture  or  group  of  O""xtures  has  its  own processor, so that the systems will continue to run during network outages. Statistical information is logged locally andO""les are updated using the UNIX rsynch

feature when the network comes back online.

SMART TOILETS In addition to the automation of water R'ow  to  sinks,  showers,  bathtubs,  etc.,  EXISTech sensors may be used to automatically R'ush toilets and urinals. A single sensor can control a row of O""xtures. For toilets in stalls, one sensor is needed for every two toilets.

Typically, a passive infrared sensor is used  for  automatic  R'ushing,  because such sensors have the capacity to detect recently deposited waste products (owing to heat from the body, which causes waste products to be warmer than their environment). Since toilets and urinals are supplied with cold-only plumbing, the passive thermal sensor is the best choice for triggering automatic R'ush. However, in situations where hot-water plumbing is involved, such as showers and sinks, it is better to use an active infrared sensor,i.e. one that produces its own source of

illumination. Since the illumination is still in the infrared, it is invisible to bathroom users.

Computer vision systems with sensor arrays  save water  by distinguishing be-tween urination and defecation, as illustrated in Fig. 2. Urination, as in Stall 1, where the stream of warm urine as well as the urine in the bowl is visible, can be automatically  distinguished  from  the defecation taking place in Stall 3, where solid waste matter is detected through the thermal contrast between warm bodily  waste  and  the  colder  surrounding water. In Stall 4, note the visible thermal butt print on the toilet seat and two thermal footprints where the cement R'oor is still warm. This heat signature indicates recent use of the toilet in Stall 4. When urination is detected a smaller quantity of water is used, whereas more water is used to clear solid waste matter from the bowl after defecation is detected.Sloppy  aim,  forgetting  to  R'ush  and

other acts of negligence can also be automatically detected and appropriate action  taken  (e.g.  notiO""cation  of  staff, automatic R'ushing of toilets, automatic release of perfume or pepper spray, etc.).Ceiling-mounted infrared sensors can

also be used to automatically categorize inter-stall  activity,  for  example  distinguishing the changing of clothes from

208 Mann, Intelligent Bathroom Fixtures

Fig. 2. ClassiO""cation of waste type and detection of negligence. ((C) S. Mann) Passive infraredheat sensors are used for automatic R'ushing where O""xtures are connected to cold water only. The computer vision system can detect waste products based on their thermal signature.

Fig. 3. A person in Stall 1 (left) undresses and temporarily places clothes upon the stalldivider. ((C) S. Mann) The computer can recognize that all of the articles of clothing are eventually retrieved by the user of Stall 1. However, when articles are passed from one stallto another (right), the computer vision algorithms track their passing as in Stalls 3 and 4, where contraband is being passed underneath the stall divider.

the passing of contraband, as illustrated in Fig. 3. An alert is then sent to the authorities, together with live video of only Stalls 3 and 4, while masking out the information in Stall 1, to protect the privacy  of  the  person  who  is  changing clothes.

SMART SHOWERS Additional features of image-based motion  detection  can  also  be  applied  to shower rooms to provide user safety and security  through  visual  monitoring  tomake sure that the user is attended to

when encountering danger such as tripping and falling.

High-quality pictures assist facility managers in monitoring usage patterns, to help reduce or eliminate deviant behav-ior such as excessively long showering, use

by vagrants, shaving or washing clothes in the shower room. Using the appropriate artiO"" cially intelligent software, management can be sure of maximizing user satisfaction  by  making  certain  that  one inconsiderate user does not decrease the user-satisfaction of others.

In addition to deterring crime and van-dalism, intelligent plumbing O""xtures can

also be used to respond to acts of terrorism. A regular shower facility in a typical locker-room setting can double as a mass decontamination  (decon)  facility  in times of emergency. In this case, havingfull-color video feeds will assist remote

decon ofO""cers in determining,  for  example, if a powder on a subject's body is grey,  like  powdered  anthrax,  or  some other color. A unique hexagonal architecture, shown in Fig. 4, speeds through-put  when  used  with  a  six-person

sensor-operated column shower installed in each shower room.

A six-person column shower having six nozzles around a hexagonal/round column is used to match this hexagonal architecture. The optics are composed of a single sheet of smoked polycarbonate inserted inside the column after six viewing holes have been drilled. A typical installation of this invention will use optics that allow color cameras to be concealed within the column, out of sight of vandals.Hexagonal architecture increases bathroom throughput and efO""ciency for mass casualty bioterror response preparedness, such as in response to spilled salt or other mysterious powder. High-security RotogateTM turnstiles lead into gender-speciO""cundressing areas. There up to six men

and six women strip completely and are then  allowed  to  pass  into  the  shower rooms  through turnstiles unlocked via the  central  control  room.  Another  six men and six women are then herded into the  undressing  rooms  while  the  O""rst group is showering. To protect the privacy of those undergoing decon, the central guard tower walls are made of smoked glass  or  polycarbonate,  and  there  are black  cloth  bafR'es  inside  the  control room. Thus men cannot see through to the  women's  side,  or  vice  versa.  After showering, victims are then allowed to enter  the  examination rooms  through another remotely unlocked turnstile. Telemedicine facilitated by high-resolutionvideocameras allows remote triage staff to

perform  medical  exams  and  permit healthy persons to leave.

An adhesive sealant makes the inside of the column watertight. Six video cameras are installed in the column with a45o mirror on each one. Three cameras

point up from below, while three point down from above. An embedded computer  includes  video  capture  devices  in the column that  are used to  locally control six separate solenoid valve actuators while also providing remote connectivity.

Appropriate software detects the presence of  users and turns on the appropriate  showerheads  where  R'esh  is detected. In this way no water is wasted.

The six-person column shower works within the context of what I call a hexagraphic architecture, in which rooms are linked together in a honeycomb-shaped lattice guarded by turnstiles where walls meet at 120o angles [2]. Six cameras ineach shower room and six cameras in the

central  triage  room  would  comprise a total of 18 cameras. The captured images can be displayed on two television sets,

Mann, Intelligent Bathroom Fixtures 209



4' 2'





Fig. 4. Hexagonal architecture increases bathroom throughput and efO""ciency for mass casu-alty bioterror response preparedness. ((C) S. Mann) High-security RotogateTM turnstiles lead into gender-speciO""c undressing areas, then to shower rooms unlocked by a guard in thecentral control room. After showering, subjects are then allowed to enter the examination rooms. Telemedicine facilitated by high-resolution videocameras allows remote triage staff toperform medical exams and permit healthy persons to leave.

each showing a 3-by-3 mosaic of images (a  9-up  image  on  each  TV). A  typical screen shot of the sensor-operated column shower in  actual use is shown  in Color Plate A No. 4 [3], which shows the output  from  the  central  triage  room, which appears as the top row of the 3-by3-image mosaic on the Men's Decon OfO""cer control console.

CONCLUSION Infrared sensor-operated plumbing O""xtures can incorporate recent advances in computer vision. Passive infrared sensor arrays are optimal for computer control of toilets and urinals, whereas active infrared sensor arrays  are most suited tothe control of sinks and showers. However, for emergency preparedness, where

telemedicine and remote triage are essential, showers should be equipped with full-color  sensing capability,  especially helpful in the identiO""cation of perpetrators who may be among the victims of a bioterror attack, especially in the case of suicide attackers, who would likely become victims, or in the case of accomplices, who might try to hide themselves among the casualty population.

Acknowledgment Ongoing work on this project is being sponsored byCanada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council

and Toronto Arts Council.

References and Notes 1. See  and .

2. See Canadian Patent 02303611, O""led 1 April 2000and URL from a July 2001 exhibit at Gallery TPW, , and the curatorialessay  at  . 3. See the press release, "Mailroom Begins Opera-tions June 30th; Public Tours July 5, 2001, at 7:00 pm"

and the call for volunteers for a mass casualty anthraxdecontamination  drill  at  .

Manuscript received 18 October 2001. S.  Mann  was  born  in  Canada and  spentmuch of his childhood inventing various kinds of smart clothing and wearable computers. Hewent to the United States to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, receivinghis  Ph.D.  in  1997,  prior  to  returning  to Canada as an Assistant Filing Clerk Traineefor EXISTech Corp. He is also a faculty member at the University of Toronto.

210 Mann, Intelligent Bathroom Fixtures