The smart home craze has entered the loo: That's right, the wonders of smart bathrooms have arrived in the form of showers that heat themselves to your perfect temperature, toothbrushes that polish your pearly whites just right, and other innovations that make your morning and evening hygiene rituals more comfy and convenient than ever. In this latest installment of The Connected Home, we check out some of the latest advances in bathroom tech—plus some honest answers about how helpful they truly are (because it's by no means clear that everyone needs an intelligent toilet).
"There are two major reasons for owning a smart shower," says home automation expert Emily Long at SafeWise. The first and most apparent is that it's kind of a pain to manually fine-tune your faucet every morning so that the spray of water is neither too hot nor too cold.
With smart showers, you just hook up this Wi-Fi-enabled device to your water heater and install the touch screen in your bathroom. Next, turn on your shower, wait until the water temperature feels just right, then select that as your favorite setting. Thus, a perfect shower at your preferred temperature awaits every morning; you can even start the water running from your smartphone in bed. Cool.
The Moen U thermostatic digital shower kit ($1,225) is a leader in the smart shower field, but does come with a few challenges.
"The Moen is a great concept," says Tom Flanagan, vice president of Technology at Alain Pinel Realtors and author of real estate technology blog Real Estate Things. "However, it does not include the shower head, and most people will need a plumber to install the device."
So, make sure to factor these added expenses into your budget.
Preset temperatures aside, the other major advantage to smart showers is water conservation, and the EvaDrop ($200 to pre-order) has devised an ingenious way to do it. If, say, you’re directly under the shower head rinsing your hair, water will flow at the max. If you step away to get soap, it reduces to 80%. And if you move completely away to shave your legs, the flow drops to 40%. These nifty features claim to cut your bathing water consumption in half.
Think hands-free faucets exist only in airport bathrooms and office buildings? Hardly. Now, you can get your mitts on your own model.
Addison's Touch2O ($360 and up) has the largest line of residential hands-free faucets, so you're more likely to find a style that harmonizes with the rest of your fixtures. And, while waving your hands in front of the faucet's infrared sensor is fun, you still have the option to turn it off and on by its handle.
For a more budget-friendly version, you can try the Freuer Magia ($59), Amazon's most popular smart faucet that's also billed as easy to install.
But here's something to keep in mind: Many people buy touchless faucets thinking they're hygienic. But a Johns Hopkins study found some can actually spread more germs because their complicated valve design tends to harbor more bacteria. The true benefit of hands-free faucets is that they cut water consumption in half, because they run only while you're using them—so, no more wasting water while brushing your teeth.
Why would anyone want a smart toilet? For one, building off the low-flush trend, smart toilets can analyze the weight and volume of what's in the bowl and dispense just enough water to wash it down.
Kohler's Numi toilet ($5,120), for instance, "actively monitors and adjusts water usage," says Long. As a result, the smart toilet consumes "at least 20% less than a standard toilet."
And since even touching a toilet is something many would like to avoid, the Numi's infrared motion sensors can tell the right time to raise and lower the toilet lid, and flush on your behalf. Although that might not be as convenient as it sounds, going by this Reddit thread titled "F*** automatic flushing toilets." Apparently they don't always flush when expected or needed, and can scare young children. Who knew toilets could keep you on your toes?
But we could be on the verge of yet another leap in toilet technology.Once the General Practitioner Toilet by Yanko arrives on the market, hypochondriacs will be able to obsess to their heart’s delight. Basically when you urinate, it collects a small sample and analyzes it for any concerning ingredients such as sugar, protein, or blood. It's like a doctor's appointment every time you sit down.
If your dentist's always nagging you to brush better, a smart toothbrush could show you the ropes. One industry leader, the Sonicare DiamondClean Smart Sonic ($230+), delivers a targeted toothbrushing plan thanks to sensors in the brush's handle that detect pressure and positioning (and, in turn, which pearly whites you're polishing). From there, a smartphone app showing a visual map of a mouth points out your progress by turning the various zones and quadrants from gray to white the more you brush.
Meanwhile, another industry leader, the Oral-B Genius Pro ($155+), accomplishes the same goals in a different way: It uses your phone's camera to "watch" you brush, then points out areas you missed or that need more attention. This, as one Wired review notes, requires "standing perfectly still while you're brushing," which is "easier said than done." Still, it could be worth getting used to given the more budget-friendly price.
These days, a scale that merely tells you how much you weigh seems as old as the hills. Today's smart scales use bioelectrical impedance—a technology that sends tiny electrical impulses through your body—to deduce your body fat percentage, which is considered a far more accurate gauge of your fitness levels than weight or BMI (which factors in only weight and height).
One leader in the field, the Fitbit Aria ($130), is lauded for its accurate body fat readings as well as its ability to translate your data into graphs so you can chart your progress. Meanwhile, the Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale ($135) also syncs with the Fitbit, but includes more for your money because it can also measure your heart rate (through your feet no less) and environmental data like indoor air quality. For instance, if there's not enough oxygen in the air, it will prompt you to open the windows already.