Innovation

Smart restrooms at LAX use IoT 'Tooshlights' to help passengers save time and avoid lines

American Airlines Terminal 4 at Los Angeles International Airport now features Tooshlights smart technology for public restrooms.

One of the biggest pain points of travel is waiting in long lines at busy airport restrooms. People often avoid the tiny restrooms on board an airplane, which means that as soon as passengers disembark, they head straight to the facilities in the airport terminal. And that can mean having a plethora of people in line ahead of you.

Tooshlights has developed a smart restroom traffic management system to help relieve some of the problems with airport restrooms. It uses a red, green, and blue light system to indicate when stalls are available, shortening restroom wait times.

SEE: Travel and business expense policy (Tech Pro Research)

Earlier this month, Tooshlights was installed in 21 restrooms at Terminal 4 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This is the American Airlines terminal, and the plans are to expand it to the United Terminal 7, and throughout the airport.

Within the next few weeks, Tooshlights is also going to be installed in restrooms at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is the busiest airport in the world, with with just over 100 million passengers traveling through in 2017, according to Conde Nast Traveler.

Tooshlights works by placing a light over each bathroom stall. The light is red if the stall is occupied, and green if it's vacant; ADA-compliant bathroom stalls feature a blue light if available. Each Tooshlights unit has a smart latch for the stall door, and an indicator light. It can be installed in new bathrooms or existing facilities. The smart latch communicates wirelessly with the indicator light, said Tooshlights President and CEO Allen Klevens.

Klevens has spent four years developing the system and some of that time was used to study people's bathroom habits. Women tend to go into restrooms and, if stall doors are closed, they wait in line for someone to come out of a stall. This can result in many stalls going unused, because it's assumed someone is in the stall when it's actually vacant.

Meanwhile, men usually push on stall doors while casually glancing under stalls or looking through the cracks in the doors to see if the toilet is occupied. And men don't always lock their stall doors, so that can lead to embarrassing encounters. The technology behind the locks tend to encourage men to lock stall doors, because they like to see the light go from green or blue to red, Klevens said.

LAX has partnered with Infax to provide real-time data from Tooshlights to keep busy bathrooms cleaner.

"We supply the API [application programming interface] to them, and they have a deal with LAX where they're already showing passenger data information and wait times. They've incorporated our data into their platform, and their platform is then shown to LAX to show how many people are walking through the actual restroom, how many people now are using the restroom, and how many people are in the stalls," Klevens said.

Airports are interested in Tooshlights because they have Airport Service Quality (ASQ) scores that the Airports Council International uses to measure passenger satisfaction, and restrooms are continually one of the top five problems that passengers report.

"And so what Tooshlights has done is brought bathroom talk to the front, but done it in a humorous way, yet a very serious way," Klevens said. "On the business side it's a really serious deal where airports have ASQ scores that they have to keep up. They want them to be kept up."

Also see

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A green light means that a bathroom stall is vacant.

Image: Tooshlights

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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