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New Products Use Technology for Health, Energy Saving (July 26, 2005)

The Intelligent Toilet (Daiwa House Industry Co., Ltd.)
Using the toilet is a necessary part of everyday life, like eating and sleeping. The role of the toilet has long been limited to flushing away waste, but that may be about to change with the recent introduction of a hi-tech bathroom system that can instantly gather, compile, and analyze data about a person's physical health. Another recent bathroom innovation is a highly advanced bathtub that has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of energy used to heat bathwater.

Medical Check
The Intelligent Toilet was jointly developed by Daiwa House Industry Co., Ltd. based in Osaka, and Toto Ltd., based in Kita-Kyushu. Daiwa House is marketing the product, which went on sale from April 2005, while Toto is manufacturing it. Through an array of built-in devices, the toilet instantly measures the user's blood pressure, weight, body fat, and urine sugar level.

While the user sits on the toilet, one of the devices gauges the urine sugar level, and another device built into a counter beside the toilet bowl measures blood pressure. The monitoring does not stop there. After the user gets off the toilet, a scale built into the floor measures their weight, while body fat is measured by a device built into the sink basin after the user washes their hands. Integrating all these instruments in a single place does away with the fuss of having to set up and operate separate devices whenever a person needs a health check.

The aim of putting all this technology into the Intelligent Toilet is to improve quality of life by keeping a continuous check on symptoms indicative of "lifestyle" diseases, such as diabetes. Such diseases often go unnoticed until the patient goes to the doctor's for a check-up, by which time the symptoms may have progressed.

The data collected by the Intelligent Toilet is easily managed. After the user's health data is recorded, it can be uploaded via a home network and stored in a personal computer. A health management application installed on the PC, called Kenko Kanrikun (Mr. Health Management), uses the data to create graphs showing monthly and annual changes and even offers advice on ways to improve the user's lifestyle. The system is comprehensive in managing the user's health.

These hi-tech toilets cost from ¥380,000 ($3,454 at ¥110 to the dollar) to ¥562,000 ($5,109) more than conventional toilets.

Some Like it Hot
In the bathtub business, meanwhile, Toto has come out with a product that promises to keep bathtub water warm for hours on end without consuming energy. The Maho Bin Yokuso (Flowpia Mahobin Bathtub) has been a hit since its introduction in August 2004. The magic of the product lies in its double-insulated design. The outer layer of insulation prevents heat from escaping from the tub. It consists of the base, made from polypropylene foam, a material with high insulating properties. When the base is raised to fit tightly against the rim of the tub, cool air from outside is kept out, and the heat from the hot water inside the tub is sealed in. The second layer consists of an insulated tub lid, made of urethane, and a covering of polystyrene foam, both or which are placed over the tub.

Thanks to these innovations, the bathtub is four times better at retaining heat than conventional bathtubs, defying the commonly held notion that hot bath water quickly cools down. The temperature of water in the tub has been shown to drop by only two degrees over a six-hour period.

In Japan, where people only enter the bath after they have washed and bathwater is often reheated for the next member of the family, the financial benefit of the product stems from a reduced amount of reheating, potentially saving owners from ¥5,000 ($45) ¥10,000 ($90) a year in their energy bills. The products have also been designed with the environment in mind, as in the use of polypropylene foam, which is easily recyclable. Sales of the Flowpia Mahobin Bathtub are already running at two to three times the originally projected level.

The bathtub's heat-saving ability has won plaudits from both customers and the industry. The product was given a Nikkei Superior Products and Service Award and the Eco-Products Award of the Promotion Committee Chairman Awards.

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Copyright (c) 2005 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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