New app tells staff which toilets are busy

5th of October 2016
New app tells staff which toilets are busy

A Finnish company has created an app that lets office workers know which toilets are free and which are occupied - without them having to leave their desks.

Employees at digital innovation consultancy Futurice in central Helsinki created the app following frustrations that the gents' toilets were often occupied. Members of staff therefore wasted a great deal of time walking around looking for a vacant washroom.

The app takes the form of a live map. "The bathrooms on the map turn red when they're occupied and green when they're unoccupied," said Paul Houghton, director of wizardry and development and mastermind behind the project. "Then you know where to go."

The system uses small wireless sensors that are attached to objects and surfaces around the office. These broadcast tiny radio signals that can be received and interpreted by a smartphone.

Wifi beacon triangulation is used to indicate where employees are at any given moment. Besides being able to check for unoccupied washrooms the app also allows Futurice staff members - who practise "hot-desking" and have no permanent workspaces of their own - to locate vacant desks and seek out quieter places to work.

However, the technology has not been welcomed by everyone at the company.

"I thought it would be interesting to put air-quality sensors in the bathrooms that would sense methane," says Houghton. "But I was kicked out of the ladies' room with my tail between my legs because they told me in no uncertain terms that this is their private space and they didn't want any spaceship-looking sensors."


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