Bathroom Status Reporting Hack Eliminates Lines, Frustration

In a lot of ways, portable toilets are superior to standard indoor-plumbing-style toilets. This is mostly due to the fact that they have a status indicator on the door. It’s a shame that no indoor bathrooms have figured this out yet, especially in office buildings where your awkward coworkers bang on every door rather than just check for feet in the huge gap that for some reason exists between the floor and the stall door. Anyway, [Chris] and [Daniel] came up with a solution for this issue, which also eliminates wait time for bathrooms in their office.

Their system is an automated bathroom status indicator that reports information about the bathroom’s use over WiFi. Since the bathrooms at their facility are spread out, it was helpful to be able to look up which bathroom would be free at any given moment. Several Raspberry Pis form the nerves of the project. Custom sensors were attached to a variety of different door locks to detect status. Each Pi reports back over WiFi. This accomplishes their goal of being subtle and simple. They also point out that they had to write very little code for this project since there are so many Unix and embedded hardware tools available to them. Checking the status of the bathroom can be as simple as running netcat.

If you’re looking to roll out your own bathroom status monitor solution, [Chris] and [Daniel] have made their code available on GitHub. There are a number of other ways to automate your bathroom, too, like switching the exhaust fan on when it gets too smelly or humid, or even creating a device that dispenses your toilet paper for you.


20 thoughts on “Bathroom Status Reporting Hack Eliminates Lines, Frustration

    1. You really that thick? The whole point of this is to know when a bathroom is free before you actually walk up to it. Someone might need to be in there for a minute and this makes it so it’s not a repeated unknown every time you leave your desk/cubicle/work area/whatever to see if your coworker has vacated… … …the restroom.

      …people are so fucking negative. Even when there’s no call for it ‘ooh… an opportunity to chop down a project AND an entire nationality!’

      1. The article begins with this:
        -> In a lot of ways, portable toilets are superior to standard indoor-plumbing-style toilets. This is mostly due to the fact that they have a status indicator on the door <-
        And keeps bemoaning how inconvenient these bathrooms are the entire first paragraph… Over something the civilized world has probably figured out decades or possibly centuries ago… (yes, that riling is done on purpose)

        As for not knowing if the restroom has been vacated, there is the possibility that someone gets there between you looking it up and arriving at the toilet so that argument is just about moot.

        The project itself is nicely done, I have no problem with that.

        1. I stand by my indignation.

          From what I can tell then your issues isn’t with the hack it’s with Bryans attempt at injecting a little sarcastic humor then. …his use of artistic liberty, I suppose… ‘huge gap between the floor and stall door’ …I interpreted the hack as being intended for bathROOMS, not stalls. ie: single occupant, full size doors.

          As for you- ‘knowing its been vacated, but another coworker gets there first.’ …that’s a possibility, most likely a rare occurance, but possible. The system still saved you how ever many trips you *would* have taken while it was occupied by the first. The hack still presents the user with information they didn’t have previously… hell- if it was me? I could see using that information to make decisions like ‘both bathrooms on 12 are free, but might not be when I get there… 11 is occupied, but I bet it won’t be by the time I get down to it… … …I’ll head there.’.

          Instead you go the ‘Americans are so stupid’ route… like any of the European countries have their shit figured out? Like, perfection down to a science figured out? We’re fucked as a species, man. Generalizations such as yours are how we end up with bullshit like racism, sexism and… … …fuck it. I’m done.

  1. where is this that the building doesn’t have sufficient toilets? isnt there building codes for this? I don’t think i have ever encountered a cubicle that didn’t have indicators on the locks or hinges that made the door self opening or both.
    admittedly the indicator isn’t very useful if someone locks it with the door ajar so you think its being used.
    how long are people taking in the bathroom that they haven’t finished by the time you get there? maybe the real solution is some fiber?

    1. I should imagine that the building could be just about anywhere in the US, Canada, or, for that matter, the industrialized world.
      The number of toilets is specified by code as a function of maximum building occupancy, but doesn’t take into account such things as synchronized breaks and lunches (see the lawsuits re: Amazon over the last couple years. Spoiler: the company doesn’t need to pay for certain required time and can penalize employees for needing to use the restroom on the clock because there aren’t enough for all employees to do their thing on break)

      There are standards for the dividers and doors for size and opacity, among other things, but indicators are not required, nor are self opening hinges (last I dealt with this was about 6 years ago when my job duties included some H&S compliance, so things may have changed) Self opening hinges don’t hold up: they wear out and stop working, get replaced with no self openers, rely on proper installation, and a host of other failure modes. They also cost more than plain, so you can see why they might not be used. Latches tend to be simple surface mount sliders once replacement needs to be done, no matter the style of the original, for a number of reasons (replacing the entire door due to damage, latch broke and matching replacement not available, etc)

      But all of this is irrelevant to the point. You can’t see the restroom from your desk or workstation, and, therefore, may need to go on a quest to find an open restroom, or stand and wait, and wait, and wait. With an ap like this, I would imagine there is a greater chance you will fond an open one quickly.

  2. if you own the building or your landlord allows cutting and drilling you could wire up something to the light fixture in the bathroom to an external light so when the light is on then the in use indicator is on.

    if the bathroom is got a window you could cover the window forcing the use of the light.

  3. “rather than just check for feet in the huge gap that for some reason exists between the floor”
    That gap as well as the fact that most rest rooms have tile floors and splash trim around the floor is I think a simple maintenance issue. It allows the maintenance people to mop the whole place without moving a lot of things out of the way, and I suspect we all like clean facilities.

    1. Then you live in a very enlightened area of the world. In ‘Merica I don’t think I’ve ever seen and occupancy indicator on stall latches. Self opening doors are common enough (but not universal) that I’ve waited for people to leave an empty stall many times. It’s also not always polite to stoop down and look for feet…

  4. Depending on how big the office is the system should have “Reservations”, if the toilet is 5 minutes away, it says “empty” on the screen and you get there ready to take a huge dump and you find somebody in there it would be an annoying experience. Reservations could simply change the reading for the reserved stall to “occupied” for 5 minutes, if there is no change in the door sensor to closed after 5 minutes the reservation is cancelled and it goes back to “empty”.

  5. Each bathroom should have an anonymous chatroom (or not anonymous, depending on the company you keep, I suppose) attached for messages like ’12:03pm – “This is gonna take a minute…”‘
    ’12:17pm – ‘Yeah. You’re not gonna want in here for 30… 35 minutes”‘

    …hell- RaspPi -> ; (1) GPIO -> relay to the fan control, let the user select blocks of time- 5min 15min 30min : (2) GPIO -> hobby servo -> 3D Printed mechanics -> air freshener for automated doses.

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