The October 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Bowled Over by Toilet Technology

Super smart seats and community-conscious commodes aimed at huddled masses yearning to breathe free

1 min read
Bowled Over by Toilet Technology
Photo-Illustration: Eawag/EOOS

Photo: Kohler
Kohler’s Numi toilet puts the “funk” into multifunctional. The commode doubles as a loudspeaker, playing music streamed from a Bluetooth gadget, loaded onto an SD card, jacked in via an auxiliary cable, or tuned in using a built-in FM radio. The toilet has sensors that tell it to open or close the cover; they also raise or lower the seat depending on the position of your feet, ending the anger and recriminations over someone splashing down into the water in the middle of the night. The Numi toilet has a self-cleaning bidet wand, a heated seat, and vents that blow soothing warm air on your feet.

The Conversation (0)

From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

Keep Reading ↓Show less