Smart Pipe

Pretty impressive surveillance-economy satire.

EDITED TO ADD (1/14): MIT has a $4M grant to study sewage in aggregate.

Posted on January 9, 2015 at 1:35 PM • 26 Comments

Comments

AndrewJanuary 9, 2015 2:40 PM

There is a bit of truth, everything you may ever invent or every new discovery you may ever make can be stolen and found later in some ex-nsa-director private company.

John CampbellJanuary 9, 2015 3:33 PM

(chuckles)

Well, not only do I know my sh!t, so does Smart Pipe... and their downstream collaborators.

SoWhatDidYouExpectJanuary 9, 2015 3:40 PM

Were you looking for satire in this piece, or did you get a peek into the future of how data will be collected that can and will be used against you in a court of law (probably by law-breakers of all things)?

Let's see, I don't think one can do a worthwhile analysis or one with much value in the short time interval that your manure flows by the sensors. Even the analysis of material taken during an autopsy will take hours, days, or weeks to produce accurate and/or court reliable information. This is not forensics.

If this were valuable, and it probably is, then such analysis must be used in food production, such as cattle lots, hog lots, and milk production. Of course, those organization WON'T do this because they don't want it known what is being pushed through the livestock and is being leached out into the environment (it could make such production facilities being tagged as dangerous or toxic waste producers).

Crap, even when my doctor orders a stool analysis, it cost up to a C-note and takes a month to get the results.

Satire and the video may have been produced by the spooks.

Bruce ClementJanuary 9, 2015 3:47 PM

Droll, but the funniest thing to me isn't the obvious and overblown privacy breaches but that we choose to forget examination of urine and faeces is an ancient diagnostic tool. Mellitus, as in diabetes mellitus, means from honey becase the urine had a sweet taste. A number of diseases to this day are often first diagnosed from the smell, look or consistency of faeces and before modern lab tests that was good enough.

Nick PJanuary 9, 2015 5:29 PM

That was funny. I like how they paid good attention to the little things. Good points Alex and Bruce Clement.

Coyne TibbetsJanuary 9, 2015 9:57 PM

The problem with satire is that, to be recognized as such, it must be more extreme than reality.

So I'm kind of sure this is satire...but what if a company starts offering this technology next week? Would this still be satire, or just an infomercial ahead of its time?

WaelJanuary 10, 2015 12:10 AM

Funny... Not too far fetched either. I give it 10 years before the toilet has some sensors and is part of the "internet of things"... A toilet with an IP and MAC address too. But hey, you can share the Internet when you turn the personal hotspot on :)

Now we're taking it to the next level: Google toilet!
Reminds me of our discussions in the past about using an x386 for "lack of subversion". If this toilet were current CPU technology, then the x386 would be a bedpan :)

Hey, you registered for a free toilet pal!
Didn't your mother tell you not take candy from strangers or accept cookies from strange web sites?

How can I trust you with so much power?

Good question!

There is something that doesn't smell right about this guy!

Figurative and literal. 

What're we waiting for? Let's get this guy to Gitmo!
My kind of humor :)

Terry ClothJanuary 11, 2015 5:59 PM

So, will people with septic systems be able to command a premium when selling their homes?

AlanSJanuary 11, 2015 9:15 PM

Coming to a pipe near you...

MIT has a $4 Million grant.

What does Cambridge sewage say about residents? MIT plans to find out. A new project aims to understand a city’s health and habits through its waste.

Another concern could be the extension of the surveillance state into the sewers. But it will not be easy to trace waste products, even those with legal implications (from illicit substances, for example), back to any individual toilet-flusher. The first test neighborhood in East Cambridge has just over 4,000 people in it, and none of the neighborhoods that will be tested will have fewer than 2,000 people. Turgeman, the research lead, said via e-mail there will be no way to link results to individual homes or buildings. Someday, though, he hopes people have the option to buy smart toilets outfitted with sensors that measure what passes through them. Turgeman is working on making a certain porcelain god more omniscient. If we choose to connect a smart toilet to the Internet, we run a real risk of flushing our privacy. Until then, there are traces of all of us in the sewers—and those will tell a different, more collective story.

WaelJanuary 11, 2015 10:25 PM

Advertisements coming to your "pipe":

Holly crap! (No pun intended) You're at a great risk, pal! Either you buy this toilet paper from Acme or we can book you an appointment with Dr. Jackson. He's running a special for hemorrhoids operations. And if you book now while you are straining on your smart throne, you'll get an extra 10% discount. From the looks of it, we estimate you'll be stuck on your seat for another 15 minutes, so hurry before the offer expires.

Oh, you're being streamed realtime (over a "secure" TLS channel) for evaluation by an NSA proctologist, just for your safety ;) Have a nice day, and don't forget to watch your hands.

WaelJanuary 11, 2015 11:11 PM

On the risky side, if you're Internet is down, this will happen:

My goodness, please open the seat cover! I am gonna bust, stuff is coming out of my ears. The toilet will then send a text message to your smartphone (over BT): Teather the smartthrone to your smartphone for emergency use. Only $4.99 to pinch a loaf, so to speak. You can also call our technical support line for help for 99 cents a minute, or just try to reboot your smart toilet. It takes it 20 minutes to reset and clear the pipes...

This can also happen if you forget to pay the monthly fee, or don't click (drip in this case) on enough sponsor links. If you forget the password to open the seat cover, then you're in deep doodoo (literally.) Try to remember a password when you're wiggling and dancing. Also, you'll have violate security best practices and disclose the password to "guests", too. So make sure your passwords are not common among your devices ;)

WaelJanuary 11, 2015 11:27 PM

Ok, last one:
Gives a whole different meaning to shi**ty applications! It's a good thing to put on the resume when you are a "Toilet applications developer" using a shi**ty SDK :)

PeteJanuary 12, 2015 5:38 AM

@AlanS, would that be Cambridge, Massoftwoshits?

It's hard to see whether they're planning any useful analysis, or whether they're just going through the motions.

JanitorJanuary 12, 2015 5:42 AM

LOL @

Can't beat those jokes but wouldn't it be sort of funny if this thing has state of the art security so that you can't even jailbreak it? or networked to the point that even if you sneak into your neighbor's, it recognizes your buttux the moment you sit on her (toilet?) up to the point no toilet in the world will take your shit unless you make the payment ... uhmmm ... (not funny.)

Clive RobinsonJanuary 12, 2015 6:12 AM

Enough of the "bum jokes" already... I know the "big bang theory" got mileage with the "space toilet" gags, and Futurama had several episodes with lower GI gags including "wandering bowel syndrome" in "A clone of my own" episode.

But don't we sit above such things as a profession?

Aldo the ApacheJanuary 12, 2015 5:02 PM

When you fellers make yer first billion chargin' people ta sheeyit, an' ya re-tire ta that Nantucket Island place, are you gonna take off that-there SmartPipe blazer? I thought so. And that-there is somethin' I jist CANNOT abide. So I'm gonna give you a little somethin' ya CAIN'T take off.....

Clive RobinsonJanuary 14, 2015 1:43 AM

@ AlanS,

Turgeman seems a very unfortunate name for someone working on this type of project.

It's something I've noticed with the medical profession as well, in the past I've been operated on by Mr Leach the surgeon been seen by a Dr Cutting in another hospital and quite a few others including Dr Hart and similar.

Likewise I've bumped into engineering related names in engineering.

But my all time favourit was a Mr Richard Head, an executive managment type, in a US tech company. I was having a meeting with one of the other execs who just happened to be British when he walked in unanounced put his hand out and said "Hi Dick Head" with a slight pause and then gave his job title. Somehow I managed to keep my face and voice neutral and shook the proffered hand. He said a few words and left. I looked at the British exec and cautiously enquired if Richard had been told I got a nod and an old fashioned resigned look along with a short story. It turned out Richard was a quite likeable person who spent quite a bit of his time in Asia and we got on OK. Having had my name mangled by people who live in various Asian countries I have some sympathy with him.

Speaking of Asia, Motorola did a lot of silicon manufacture in Asia, including their 6800 micro controllers which had two letter suffixes. I was trying to get hold of some more parts and had phoned up their Aylsbury office and was reading of the required part number from a datasheet and it was only as a questioning "pardon" from the young lady at the other end of the phone that it clicked in my head that a two letter suffix could be inadvertently offensive....

AlanSJanuary 14, 2015 8:29 AM

@Clive

I once came across a Reverend Pagan. Makes you wonder if he was compensating for his name.

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