2016 – The year of the smart toilet… and keeping environmental trading schemes alive

Posted on Posted in PwC Chair in Digital Economy

Immediacy – we expect all sorts of information to be available at our fingertips in our digital world. We may soon have smart toilets that can tell us and our doctor if we’re diabetic or have a bacterial infection.

One of the two winning teams at a February 2016 Student Design Jam have progressed the smart toilet concept with QUT’s innovation partner, Queensland Urban Utilities.  A smart toilet would involve in-built or retrofitted sensors that detect health issues or dietary issues and can relay this information to the user’s mobile phone or to a database.

During the internship, the smart toilet student team had the opportunity to meet with Queensland Urban Utilities laboratory staff and work with the Product Development and Commercialisation team. The team also conducted face-to-face customer insights interviews to gather perceptions of the pros and cons of smart toilets. One of the key finding from this research was that while people are intrigued by a diagnostic toilet concept, they still would like to access the expertise of medical professionals for interpreting health data and diagnosis.

“The customer insights research conducted by the team helped us understand the preferred applications for a smart toilet,” said Lavanya Susarla, Commercialisation Manager.

In an associated initiative, the winners of the Global Business Challenge, who were inspired by the smart toilet concept ideated at the Student Design Jam, will continue to work with Queensland Urban Utilites and progressing a commercial application of smart toilet technology during 2017.  Initially, the application is aimed at monitoring patients’ urine in Queensland’s regional and remote areas.

The Student Design Jam smart toilet team comprised of both current and former students and QUT staff: Joshua Evans, Damian Grasso, Nabil Parwez, Roshan Pius and one other student with the assistance of Dr Alan Woodley.

Nutrient Trading Scheme

A proposal to reduce pollutants in Moreton Bay also impressed the judges panel at the Student Design Jam.  A second QUT student team, comprised of Andrew Nguyen, Alexandra Pereira, Isabella Machado and Jack O’Brien (UQ), proposed the installation of sensors along the Brisbane River and its tributaries near Moreton Bay to detect nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The measurement of these nutrients would provide data for a ‘Cap and Trade Scheme’ for the area.  This would ensure that all businesses that discharge water into Moreton Bay would be accountable for their waste removal practices.  The aim is to incentivize new waste treatment innovations to reduce the discharge of unwanted nutrients into Moreton Bay.   Furthermore, the trading scheme model proposed by the students is scalable and could be applied to other river systems across the country.

During their internship at Queensland Urban Utilities, the Nutrient Trading Scheme students conducted further research into the merits of pollution trading schemes, identified potential stakeholders of a trading scheme, what a monitoring network and trading platform could look like and prepared for a presentation to be delivered to the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.


To learn more about the innovation activities at Student Design Jams, visit the website