If an upscale bathroom company has its way, your toilet, shower, bathtub, and mirror will soon be connected to the internet.
Kohler announced new products this week that link to Amazon's Alexa, a voice-activated digital assistant. It starts with a mirror installed with microphones that connect to Alexa. The microphones listen for voice commands to turn on the shower, fill the bathtub, or flush the toilet, for example, according to CNET.com.
Alexa is only installed in the mirror, according to published reports. Kohler's phone app can also control the bathroom.
Kohler's smart bathroom also features the "intelligent toilet." No ordinary toilet, this one has hands-free flushing, bidet cleansing, odor control, music, a foot warmer, and "automatic seat temperature management," according to reports. The app pictured in the CNET story shows tabs for "front wash, rear wash, and dryer," for toilet's bidet functions.
CEO David Kohler told CNET:
"We want to be a brand you trust.That's a baseline requirement for us to play in this space. But, by the same token, our life is connected now. We have devices on our wrist, we're living in a connected world. We're learning how to use this [technology] and how it can really hopefully improve our lives."
What about privacy?
What happens on your smart toilet might not stay in the toilet, though.
Products installed with Alexa can provide information about your “interactions with the product,” according to the general privacy notice on its website. Using the app to run Alexa also means reporting your “device type, name, features, status, network connectivity and location.” Additionally, “the information may be stored on servers outside the country in which you live.”
Account and other personal information may be released if Amazon deems it is necessary to comply with the law or to enforce its conditions of use and other agreements; or to protect the rights, property or safety of Amazon.com, our users, or others, the policy states. This includes exchanging information "with other companies and organizations for fraud protection and credit risk reduction.”
And while it has been going on for years, some people are still unaware that some apps covertly use cell phone microphones and cameras to spy on them. More recently, VIZIO agreed to pay a $2.2 million fine to the Federal Trade Commission for tracking what owners were watching and then selling the information to advertisers, Wired magazine reported. And in December, Netflix was criticized for tweeting that 53 people had watched "A Christmas Prince" every day for 18 consecutive days.