Finding an available restroom stall at work is apparently a big challenge in Japan. So challenging, in fact, that telecommunications carrier KDDI Corp. has developed an app that lets office workers know which stalls are open in their building by using their smartphones and computers.
“People often waste time by looking around for an available toilet on various floors or by waiting until one becomes available,” KDDI spokesman Daisuke Maruo told The Japan Times. “We believe this service will help people waste less time.”
It works like this: Sensors detect when the restroom stall door is closed. The sensors are connected to a gateway device that uses KDDI’s telecommunications network to send the information to a remote server, which in turn sends real-time updates to a website where the toilet-seeker can find an open stall in the facility.
But finding an open restroom stall is not the only information the app provides: It also sends an email to a facility manager if a toilet is being used for longer than 30 minutes. The rationale is that it will alert the facility manager to any accidents or problems. It will, however, also tell bosses if their employees are spending too much time in the bathroom: 30 percent of middle-aged businessmen in Japan use bathroom stalls to take naps at work, according to a 2012 survey.
The service will be available for purchase by facility owners and managers next month. KDDI will roll out the service at office buildings first, followed by public restrooms at sports stadiums, train stations, shopping malls, and other often-crowded locations.
“Even though people sometimes complain that the number of bathrooms in a building are not enough, it is often hard for facility administrators to increase the numbers,” said Maruo. “We believe this solution will help solve the problem by streamlining how bathrooms are used.”
Time isn’t the only thing KDDI wants to help prevent workers from wasting: The company also has plans for a service that analyzes and controls the amount of water used to flush the toilet. An Internet-connected valve measures the amount of time a person spends in the restroom stall, and then dispenses an appropriate amount of water to flush the toilet. KDDI predicts the service will help facility managers save 40-50% on the amount of water used for flushing.
Seems like a worthwhile goal. Let’s hope the next app KDDI creates replaces the toilet paper when it runs out. And makes sure it’s hung the right way!