Rethinking the Throne

I’m fascinated by all things usability and it’s harder to think of anything the user interacts with more than the toilet… but I’m still trying to wrap my head around a “wireless and water-free” toilet. Isn’t that basically a Port-A-Potty?


Over time, networks often trend toward becoming more decentralized, more mobile, and less capital intensive to build out. Telecommunications did this with cell phones, and Skype laptop calls; the architecture of the Internet is like this; a future of solar rooftops could do the same thing for the power grid. Is it time for the humble toilet to get reinvented by applying these same principles to the sanitation network?

That’s one of the themes behind some of the toilet innovation that just emerged from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge. The year-long challenge asked universities and entrepreneurs to develop next-generation toilets for the 2.5 billion people that don’t already have them in developing countries like India. The toilets in the Challenge needed to be able to function without piped water and electrical connections, and also needed to reuse the waste in some way.

The first…

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