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Publication numberUS20020007510 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/944,429
Publication dateJan 24, 2002
Filing dateSep 4, 2001
Priority dateOct 29, 1998
Also published asUS20020057915, US20020085843, US20020105410, US20030034874
Publication number09944429, 944429, US 2002/0007510 A1, US 2002/007510 A1, US 20020007510 A1, US 20020007510A1, US 2002007510 A1, US 2002007510A1, US-A1-20020007510, US-A1-2002007510, US2002/0007510A1, US2002/007510A1, US20020007510 A1, US20020007510A1, US2002007510 A1, US2002007510A1
InventorsW. Mann
Original AssigneeMann W. Stephen G.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Smart bathroom fixtures and systems
US 20020007510 A1
Abstract
Image sensors, processors, and control systems facilitate automatic sensor operated bathroom fixtures, systems for controlling bathroom fixtures, and methods of bathroom fixture design, control, and management, as well as the control and management of hygiene and water resources. The networked plumbing systems also help facility managers and law enforcement personnel monitor the operation of various bathrooms in a facility or at remote facilities. Image sensors are used for controlling several showers, faucets, urinals, or water closets in large bathroom complexes. Image based intelligent bathroom fixtures and systems help enhance the privacy of users by ensuring that law abiding users need not be disturbed by police foot patrols into the restroom areas, or by security guards entering simply to make inspections. An aquionics bathroom control system of the invention maintains the cleanliness, safety, security, and privacy of the occupants in a smart bathroom environment. Additionally, in some embodiments, a bathroom facility of the invention may be used for mass decontamination during times of emergency for processing victims of a nuclear, biological, or chemical incident. Once ubiquitously installed for routine control of fixtures, the apparatus facilitates a secondary usage such as monitoring by triage staff, medical personnel, decontamination officers, or law enforcement officers during times of terrorist consequence management.
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Claims(42)
What I claim as my invention is:
1. A bathroom control system for controlling one or more bathroom fixtures, said system comprising:
one or more image sensors, said one or more image sensors being arranged to detect subject matter within a detection zone in a bath environment;
optics for producing one or more watertight seals and for allowing light from said detection zone to pass toward said one or more image sensors.
one or more image capture devices responsive to one or more inputs from said one or more image sensors, and for producing one or more picture signals containing one or more pictures of subject matter within said detection zone;
one or more image processors responsive to said one or more picture signals, and containing one or more picture storage devices;
a controller to receive an output from said one or more image processors; and
one or more actuators responsive to an output from said controller, said one or more actuators coupable to one or more bathroom fixtures.
2. The bathroom control system as described in claim 1 for controlling a toilet, in a toilet stall, in which one or more of said image sensors is an infrared array sensor system having an infrared light source, said one or more processors being an image processor for creating an image mask for reducing sensitivity of said bathroom control system to reflections from a door of said toilet stall, said image mask formed by accumulating images from said door at various angles of openness.
3. The bathroom control system as described in claim 1 for controlling decon showers, in a decon facility, said one or more processors being an image processor for creating a probability map of probabilities of each subject in said decon facility being sprayed from each controllable dimension of an array of separately controllable shower dimensions., said controllable dimensions comprising said actuators being responsive to said probability map.
4. The bathroom control system as described in claim 1 for controlling at least one water spraying device, said controller being less responsive to subject matter in said detection zone during a time interval when said spraying device is active.
5. A bathroom control system for controlling one or more bathroom fixtures, said system comprising:
one or more image sensors, said one or more image sensors being arranged to detect subject matter within a detection zone in a bath environment;
optics for producing one or more watertight seals and for allowing light from said detection zone to pass toward said one or more image sensors.
one or more image capture devices responsive to one or more inputs from said one or more image sensors, and for producing one or more picture signals containing one or more pictures of subject matter within said detection zone;
image processing means for determining whether or not said one or more picture signals corresponds to usage of a bathroom fixture;
a controller to receive an output from said one or more image processors; and
one or more actuators responsive to an output from said controller, said one or more actuators coupable to one or more bathroom fixtures, said one or actuators being actuated when one of:
said usage is detected;
after said usage has been detected but is no longer presently detected.
6. The bathroom control system of claim 5 wherein one or more video cameras include said image sensors, said video cameras responsive to a getting of lesser biological sensitivity.
7. The bathroom control system of claim 6 where said getting of lesser biological sensitivity is a responsiveness to infrared light.
8. The bathroom control system of claim 6 where said optics includes one or more viewports that are relatively transparent to a getting of high camera sensitivity, and much less transparent to a getting of biological sensitivity.
9. The bathroom control system of claim 8 where said getting of lesser biological sensitivity is a responsiveness to infrared light, such that said viewports are relatively transparent in the infrared and much less transparent in the visible portion of the spectrum of light.
10. The bathroom control system of claim 9 wherein said image sensor is incorporated into said viewport, said combination of image sensor and viewport being a vitrionic device.
11. The bathroom control system of claim 9 wherein said image sensor is incorporated into a vitrionic material.
12. A bathroom control system for controlling one or more bathroom fixtures, said system comprising:
user detection means comprising at least one video camera having a field of view that includes subject matter within a detection zone in a bath environment said at least one video camera borne by a wall, ceiling, or bath fixture of said bathroom in order to scan at least a fraction of the bath environment, said video camera being adapted to provide, in the form of output signals, images of bodies in the bathroom;
means for capturing the output signals which are obtained from said at least one video camera;
means for temporary and permanent storage of data pertaining to said images at successive times;
means for comparing the digitized images pertaining to the same body at successive times;
means for assessing the nature of a body as to whether it is a human body, and for assessing the actions and changes in position, orientation, or movement of the body on the basis of said images; p1 means for determining usage patterns of one or more bathroom fixtures located in said bathroom;
storage means for storage of at least one mathematical function for each of at least some of said said usage patterns;
comparison means for comparison of a mathematical function of a current usage of at least one bathroom fixture with mathematical functions of past usage of the same fixture;
decision means adapted to operate one or more actuators in response to said comparison means, said decision means responsive to said body being observed by said camera, said one or more actuators coupable to one or more bathroom fixtures.
13. A bathroom control system for controlling one or more bathroom fixtures, said system comprising:
user detection means comprising a plurality of video cameras each of which has a field of view that includes subject matter within a detection zone in a bath environment each of said plurality of video cameras borne by a wall, ceiling, or bath fixture of said bathroom in order to scan at least a fraction of the bath environment, said video cameras having overlapping fields of view, said video camera being adapted to provide, in the form of output signals, images of bodies in the bathroom;
picture capture means for obtaining pictures from said video cameras;
means for storage of the pictures captured from said video cameras at successive times;
means for comparing the pictures pertaining to the same body at successive times;
means for calculation of the position, orientation, or movement of a body and to determine whether it is a human body, and for determining changes in attitude of the body on the basis of these successive images;
decision means adapted to operate one or more actuators in response to said comparison means, said decision means responsive to said body being observed by said cameras, said one or more actuators coupable to one or more bathroom fixtures.
14. A bathroom control system for controlling a plurality of bathroom fixtures, said bathroom control system including all the features of claim 12 where said video camera is a sensor which is borne by a ceiling above said fixtures, said sensor having a field of view that includes space for being occupied by users of said fixtures, said bathroom control system including a map of said fixtures, said system also including means for determining which of said fixtures is in use, and for automatically actuating one or more of said fixtures by way of said actuators, in response to a usage pattern of a user of said one or more of said fixtures.
15. A bathroom control system for controlling a plurality of urinals, said bathroom control system including the features of claim 12 where said video camera is a sensor which is housed on a ceiling above said urinals, said sensor having a field of view that includes space in front of said urinals, said bathroom control system including means for determining which of said urinals are in use, and for automatically flushing one or more of said urinals by way of said actuators.
16. The bathroom control system of claim 15, wherein said sensor is positioned to acquire a view into the bowl of each of said urinals, said bathroom control system further including visual means for determining which of said bowls contains waste matter, and for determining an approximate concentration of waste matter in each of said bowls, said bathroom control system also including means for actuation of any combination of said respective actuators in response to the respective presence of waste matter in each of said bowls.
17. A bathroom control system for controlling two toilets, said bathroom control system including the features of claim 12 where said video camera is a sensor which is borne by one of:
a wall behind said toilets;
ceiling above said toilets;
said sensor having a center of projection approximately in a plane of a toilet stall partition between said at two toilets, said sensor having a field of view that includes space in front of each of said toilets, said bathroom control system including means for determining which of said toilets are in use, and for automatically flushing one or both of said toilets by way of said actuators.
18. The bathroom control system of claim 17., wherein said sensor is positioned to acquire a view into the bowl of each of said toilets, said bathroom control system further including visual means for determining which of said bowls contains waste matter, and for determining an approximate concentration of waste matter in each of said bowls, said bathroom control system also including means for actuation of any combination of said respective actuators in response to the respective presence of waste matter in each of said bowls.
19. A bathroom control system for controlling a plurality of lavatories, said bathroom control system including the features of claim 12 where said video camera is a sensor which is borne by a ceiling above said lavatories, said sensor having a field of view that includes space in front of said lavatories, said bathroom control system including means for determining which of said lavatories are in use, and for automatically turning on water to whichever one or more of said lavatories is in use, by way of said actuators.
20. A bathroom control system for controlling a plurality of jets in a bath, said bathroom control system including the features of claim 12 where said video camera is a sensor which is borne by one of:
a ceiling above said bath;
behind an at least partially transparent portion borne by said bath;
within said bath,
said sensor having a field of view of one or more bathers in said bath, said actuator for actuation of at least some of said plurality of jets, in response to proximity of one or more users to said at least some of said plurality of jets.
21. The bathroom control system of claim 20 where said bath is made of transparent material, said sensor being disposed behind said transparent material.
22. A bathroom control system for controlling a shower, said bathroom control system including the features of claim 12 where said video camera is a sensor which is one of:
housed in a shower stall in which said shower is housed;
borne by a nozzle of said shower;
borne by a wall behind said shower;
borne by a ceiling above said shower,
said sensor having a field of view that includes space in front of said shower, said bathroom control system including means for determining when said shower is occupied, and for automatically turning on water, by way of said actuators, whenever said shower is occupied.
23. A bathroom control system for controlling a plurality of showers in a shower room, said bathroom control system including the features of claim 12 where said video camera is a sensor which is borne by a ceiling of said shower room, said sensor having a field of view that includes space in front of said showers, said bathroom control system including means for determining which of said showers is occupied, and for automatically turning on water, by way of said actuators, to whichever one or more of said showers is occupied.
24. The bathroom control system of claim 23, further including a body recognition system for identifying who is using one or more of said showers, said bathroom control system also including means for billing a user of said shower for an amount of a resource consumed by respective users of said system.
25. The bathroom control system of claim 23, further including a body recognition system for identifying who is attempting to use one or more of said showers, said bathroom control system also including means for preventing unauthorized users from using said one or more showers.
26. The bathroom control system of claim 23, further including a comfort mode for providing a more pleasant shower experience to a first class of users, and a discomfort mode for providing a less pleasant shower experience to a second class of users, said bathroom control system including a body recognition system for identifying whether or not a given user of said system has enrolled in a first class of users, said bathroom control system providing a discomfort mode for users not recognized as belonging to said first class of users.
27. The bathroom control system of claim 26 where said discomfort mode is achieved by spraying a user with cold water, and said comfort mode is achieved by spraying a user with warm water.
28. The bathroom control system of claim 26 where said body recognition system comprises an analysis of pictures captured from said sensor.
29. The bathroom control system of claim 26 where said body recognition system includes a pushbutton comprised of a fingerprint scanner for a user to press in order to start one of said showers, wherein said sensor causes said one of said showers to stop automatically when said user steps away from said one of said showers.
30. A bathroom control system for controlling a column shower, said column shower having a plurality of stations extending radially outward from a central shower column, said bathroom control system including all the features of claims 12 where said video camera is a sensor which is borne by said shower column, said sensor having a field of view that includes a portion of each of said stations, said bathroom control system including means for determining which of said stations is occupied, and for automatically turning on water, by way of said actuators, to whichever one or more spray heads corresponds to whichever one or more stations is occupied.
31. The bathroom control system of claim 30, said column shower for providing up to N stations, said column having N viewports around an outside surface of said column, said system including optics inside said column for directing light collected from each of said viewports into a single video camera.
32. The bathroom control system of claim 30, said column shower for providing up to N stations, said column having N viewports around an outside surface of said column, said system including N video cameras inside said column, each responsive to light collected from each corresponding viewport.
33. The bathroom control system of claim 32, said column shower being a six station column shower for being installed in a hexagonal shower room.
34. The bathroom control system of claim 33 where said video camera is a sensor which has at least two uses, a first use being a utilitarian use, for being a sensor for said system to provide touchless automatic operation of said actuator, and a second use being a safety and security use for providing a security system, said security system providing one of:
transmission of images depicting bathroom activity to at least one remote monitoring station;
storage, for evidence, of images depicting bathroom activity;
automated monitoring means to automatically determine any unusual activity patterns and decision means adapted to operate alarm means should the activity or movement being observed give cause for concern.
35. The bathroom control system of claim 34 for use in a bath, said automated monitoring means to automatically determine if a bather is at risk of drowning in said bath.
36. The bathroom control system of claim 35 said automated monitoring means including means for determining if at least one bather is present in said bath during a time in which no head is visible above a waterline of said bath, said control system activating an alarm.
37. The bathroom control system of claim 36 for controlling a bath, said actuator responsive to light transmitted through an at least partially transparent portion of said bath.
38. The bathroom control system of claim 37 where said bath comprises a bath tub made of at least partially transparent material.
39. The bathroom control system of claim 38 where said bath tub is made of a material comprising at least one of:
smoked acrylic;
smoked polycarbonate;
mirrored acrylic;
mirrored polycarbonate;
glass.
40. The bathroom control system of claim 33 said hexagonal shower room for being a men's shower room installed in a mass decontamination facility having seven hexagonal shaped rooms, another of said seven hexagonal shaped rooms being a women's shower room, each of said men's and women's shower rooms having one of said six station column showers, wherein said sensors are transmit live video picture signals to emergency personnel for remotely operating said mass decontamination facility.
41. A method of providing safety and security in a bathroom environment, without compromising privacy, said method comprising the steps of:
installing the bathroom control system of claim 40 in a variety of bathrooms in a bathroom network;
capturing images from an output from at least one sensor said sensor being said video camera, in each of said bathrooms;
recording said images in an encrypted archive;
maintaining two separate archives, one corresponding to men's bathrooms and another corresponding to women's bathrooms;
providing investigatory access to security officers, or other officials who may help ensure bathroom safety;
ensuring that male officials can only view images captured from men's bathrooms, and that female officials can only view images captured from women's bathrooms.
42. A method of bathroom control for controlling one or more bathroom fixtures, said method comprising the steps of:
capturing, through optics for allowing light from a detection zone to pass toward one or more image sensors, one or more images, from said one or more image sensors, said image sensors being arranged to detect subject matter within a detection zone in a bath environment;
obtaining one or more pictures from one or more image capture devices responsive to one or more inputs from said one or more image sensors, said pictures depicting subject matter within said detection zone;
processing and storing said one or more pictures;
activating a controller receiving an output from said one or more image processors; and
actuating one or more actuators coupled to one or more bathroom fixtures in response to an output from said controller.
Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention pertains generally to automatic sensor operated bathroom fixtures, systems for controlling bathroom fixtures, and methods of bathroom fixture design, control, and management, as well as the control and management of hygiene and water resources.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] First impressions are lasting ones and when someone visits a company's public bathroom, a perception of the entire company is immediately formed. Thus many businesses are realizing the need to make sure the impression is a positive one.

[0003] Fully automated bathroom fixtures will function without wasting unnecessary water and energy which otherwise results with the use of conventional manually operated fixtures. Thus touchless automatic sensor operated bathroom fixtures have become very popular, and are beginning to replace older manually operated fixtures.

[0004] Additionally, these new fixtures offer a high degree of hygiene by creating an atmosphere where the user completely avoids any direct physical contact with the unit. As a result, the risks of spreading of infectious diseases are greatly reduced.

[0005] The new fixtures are quick and easy to install and require minimal maintenance.

[0006] Networked plumbing systems also help facility managers monitor the operation of various bathrooms in a facility or at remote facilities. Control boxes controlling several showers, faucets, urinals, or water closets are commonly used in large bathroom complexes.

[0007] Various kinds of infrared sensors, such as those manufactured by Sloan Valve, and radar sensors as described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,206,340, “Radar devices for low power applications and bathroom fixtures” are known in the art. These sensors typically measure the total amount of light returned by an infrared light source, or the Doppler shift of a radar signal.

[0008] Faucets (See for example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,868,311) and urinals (See for example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,061,843) are among the most commonly controlled fixtures. Some toilets are also controlled automatically but these are less common than urinals, because of some of the technical difficulties that have been encountered with stall doors causing false triggering.

[0009] Showers are very seldom controlled automatically because of certain difficulties with previous approaches.

[0010] Additionally, each fixture usually has its own sensor and plumbing systems operate separately from other systems such as security systems, sensors to automate lighting, and sensors for heating, ventillation and air conditioning. Therefore much of the sensory apparatus in a building is duplicated for various different reasons.

[0011] Other fixtures such as bath tubs, where the usage patterns are varied and more complicated (e.g. standing up for a shower versus sitting down for a bath) are not controlled automatically.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0012] A “bathroom” refers to an environment that contains bathing or sanitary fixtures. Therefore the term “bathroom” shall include, for example, a toilet room, or a room that has a toilet and sink, even if no bath tub is present in this room. A bathroom may be a room intended for individual users, or it may be a communal bathroom for use by more than one person at the same time. For example, a bathroom may be a room that contains a plurality of urinals, toilets, sinks, or the like, for use by one or more persons. The term bath is taken to include various forms of baths, including a showerbath, steam bath, sauna bath, or swimming bath. Thus a room containing only one or more showers will still be considered to be a bathroom even if there is no bath tub or other form of basin in this room. Similarly, a mass decontamination facility, a washdown facility, a mass delousing center, a cleansing station, or the like, is considered to be a bathroom. Likewise, an environment containing a whirlpool, jacuzzi, swimming pool, or the like, will be considered to be a bathroom even if the fixture is not located within the boundaries of an explicitly defined room. For example, the environment around an outdoor bath will still be considered to be a bathroom, and to thus fall within the scope of this invention. For example, the environment around an outdoor pool will be considered to be a bathroom. Other outdoor bathroom fixtures, such as the outdoor urinals sometimes found in european contries such as France, will also be considered to fall within the scope of this invention, wherein the environment around one of these urinals will still be considered to be a bathroom.

[0013] Likewise, the term “bath environment” refers to the space around one or more bathroom fixtures, such as sinks, urinals, toilets, soap dispensers, shampoo dispensers, towel dispensers, hot air hand drying fixtures, hair drying fixtures, bath tubs, whirlpools, jacuzzis, hot tubs, swimming pools, or the like, as well as the space within or around other bathing spaces such as steam baths, sauna baths, or the like.

[0014] A “getting” is a region of a space, such as a polarization space, time-polarization space, time-frequency space, time-frequency-polarization space, or the like, or a region of time such as a time interval or periodic train of time intervals or random or pseudorandom time variations, or a region of frequency such as a frequency spectrum, frequency band, frequency region, or the like.

[0015] The concept of “getting” generalizes the concept of “setting” (time and place, more commonly known as “time-space”) and emphasizes the capture, obtaining, manipulating, display, or the like, of visual information.

[0016] The term “biological” refers to a response of a biological vision system such as a human biological vision system, or the like.

[0017] It is desired that a sensor system either passively observe the bath environment or if it is an active vision system, that the active element of its vision system appear invisible to the user of the bathroom. Ideally even the passive element of the system is also concealed from users, to prevent vandalism or experimentation with the sensors, or to prevent the user from reverse engineering the sensors to learn how they work.

[0018] For example, the sensors may be built into or behind materials where the sensors have a getting of greater machine sensitivity and lesser biological sensitivity. In this way, bathroom users cannot see the sensors but the sensors can see the bathroom users.

[0019] A shiny vitreous material that a user can not see through may at the same time gather some light to at least one camera or other optical imaging system. Camera based sensors can provide a much more intricate and sophisticated form of control, because they can detect user behaviour, usage patterns, traffic flow patterns, and other attributes not evident in simple binary present/absent occupancy sensors. However, since sensors often become the target of vandalism or reverse-engineering by hackers trying to understand how they work, concealment is often desirable.

[0020] Many bathroom surfaces are made of shiny glasslike materials such as ceramic. Thus viewing windows can be easily built into or concealed in bathroom fixtures, walls, or other surfaces. Such viewing windows might include some or all of the following:

[0021] sapphire windows, ceramics, and vitrionic devices;

[0022] sapphire (alumina) infrared viewing windows;

[0023] optical ceramics;

[0024] glass, fiberglass;

[0025] vitreous china.

[0026] Such viewing windows will have a normal appearance to bathroom users.

[0027] It may also be desirable that this normal appearance be preserved even though users may be looking through instruments such as video eyeglasses worn by visually impaired users, or hand-held video cameras carried by users. Such devices can detect currently used infrared sensor operated flush valves, and sometimes even allow users to see into the viewing windows through which they are being watched by these flush valve systems, because these devices often allow users to see in the infrared to some degree.

[0028] In one embodiment, the sensors of the invention are concealed by a synchronized electrochromic viewport which is preferably not synchronized, or easily synchronizable by bathroom users attempting to reverse engineer the bathroom control system.

[0029] Preferably the viewport will therefore appear more transmissive to the sensors than to the biolotical instruments of bathroom users.

[0030] In some preferred embodiments of the invention, there is an electrically controlled temporal variation in the optical properties of a viewport. This results in a temporal getting.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0031] The invention will now be described in more detail, by way of examples which in no way are meant to limit the scope of the invention, but, rather, these examples will serve to illustrate the invention with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

[0032]FIG. 1 is a diagram showing an intelligent bathroom containing intelligent bathroom fixtures with image sensors.

[0033]FIG. 2 shows an intelligent bathroom controller with two sensors housed in an intelligent light fixture mounted above a row of four urinals.

[0034]FIG. 2A shows details of an intelligent light fixture.

[0035]FIG. 3 shows an intelligent light fixture with sensor concealed in a hemispherical mirror that also serves to make the light fixture produce indirect illumination.

[0036]FIG. 4 shows an intelligent vitrionic light fixture ceiling tile.

[0037]FIG. 5 shows intelligent bathroom tiles, along with an example in which the intelligent tiles function as sensors for three urinals in the bathroom.

[0038]FIG. 5A shows a closeup view a bathroom tile for use in an intelligent bathroom.

[0039]FIG. 5B shows an alternative embodiment of a bathroom tile for use in an intelligent bathroom.

[0040]FIG. 5C shows an intelligent urinal suitable for ensuring privacy during drug tests.

[0041]FIG. 6 shows an intelligent bath tub.

[0042]FIG. 7 is a flowchart for a secondary function that provides safety and security in an intelligent bath tub.

[0043]FIG. 8 shows how two toilets can become intelligent bathroom fixtures through the use of a single image sensor.

[0044]FIG. 8A shows an intelligent sensor in a stall with a leftward swinging door.

[0045]FIG. 8B shows an intelligent sensor in a stall with a closed door.

[0046]FIG. 8C shows an intelligent sensor in a stall with a rightward swinging door.

[0047]FIG. 8A′ shows an image from an intelligent sensor in a stall with a leftward swinging door.

[0048]FIG. 8B′ shows an image from an intelligent sensor in a stall with a closed door.

[0049]FIG. 8C′ shows an image from an intelligent sensor in a stall with a rightward swinging door.

[0050]FIG. 8A″ shows an image mask from an intelligent sensor in a stall with a leftward swinging door.

[0051]FIG. 8B″ shows an image mask from an intelligent sensor in a stall with a closed door.

[0052]FIG. 8C″ shows an image mask from an intelligent sensor in a stall with a rightward swinging door.

[0053]FIG. 9 shows an intelligent bath tub that can be adapted to being a swimming bath.

[0054]FIG. 10 shows an intelligent shower system comprised of a shower column with six stations, each station having an image sensor for providing visual intelligence to an embedded computer inside the shower column.

[0055]FIG. 10A shows a typical display configuration for monitoring of an intelligent column shower by triage staff, medical personnel, decontamination officers, or law enforcement officers during times of terrorist consequence management, or for diagnostic purposes to make sure the machine vision system is operating correctly.

[0056]FIG. 10B shows a coordinate transformed display configuration for monitoring of an intelligent column shower by triage staff, medical personnel, decontamination officers, or law enforcement officers during times of terrorist consequence management, or for diagnostic purposes to make sure the machine vision system is operating correctly.

[0057]FIG. 11A shows an alternate embodiment using a single smoked polycarbonate viewing window.

[0058]FIG. 11B shows the alternate embodiment of the column shower in which a single camera sensor observes up to six shower users, so that the touchless sensor operation of the six shower stations can be controlled from a single sensor.

[0059]FIG. 12 shows a multi-user shower for being suspended from a ceiling in the center of a room.

[0060]FIG. 13 shows a multiuser row shower in which shower heads are borne by a smoked polycarbonate pipe that also houses camera sensors for detecting users of the shower and automating the process of controlling the water flow and temperature.

[0061]FIG. 14 shows a decon shower facility that can be used as a recreational spray park when not being used for mass decontamination.

[0062]FIG. 15 shows timing diagrams for a sensor operated shower incorporating a feedback preventer.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0063] While the invention shall now be described with reference to the preferred embodiments shown in the drawings, it should be understood that the intention is not to limit the invention only to the particular embodiments shown but rather to cover all alterations, modifications and equivalent arrangements possible within the scope of appended claims.

[0064]FIG. 1 depicts an intelligent bathroom with various image sensors, some within fixtures, some being part of actuators for fixtures, some not in fixtures, and various possible connections and arrangements. This figure is not meant to limit the scope of the invention, but to merely serve as an example of how the invention might work. Image sensor 100 is concealed behind optics 110. Image sensor 100 may be a video camera, or may be contained inside a video camera. Ordinarily video cameras contain an infrared blocking filter. Preferably, however, image sensor 100 does not contain such an infrared blocking filter, and is therefore preferably sensitive to infrared light. Additionally, optics 110, or other optics, preferably blocks visible light and passes infrared light, so that sensor 100 is sensitive to the infrared. In this way, sensor 100 can be an active sensor, or can be part of an active sensor system in which infrared light is used to illuminate subject matter in the bathroom. Optics 110 may take various forms. In a preferred embodiment, optics 110 comprises a dark smoked glass tile cemented to the wall of the bathroom, together with other smoked glass tiles. Such tiles have an appearance of ordinary black bathroom tiles, but afford a sensor 100 with a view of a detection zone in the bathroom. In another embodiment, optics 110 is a camera lens, which also provides a watertight seal. In another embodiment, optics 110 is a camera lens and a cavity filling material such as an optical epoxy, so that there is no air gap in the camera between the lens and an image sensor. In this way the camera, comprised of sensor 100 and optics 110 is sealed and completely water tight. Preferably the epoxy encapsulates the sensor 100 as well as some processing circuits such as part of a capture device 120.

[0065] Other sensors such as sensor 101 may also be present in the bathroom. Some of these sensors may use planar optics, whereas others may use different kinds of optical elements. Optics 111 may, for example, be a ceiling dome that provides sensor 101 with a wide field of view. Such a wide field of view is useful for controlling a large number of bathroom fixtures with just one sensor. For example, sensor 101 and optics 111 may comprise a camera system with fisheye lens, such that when placed on the ceiling of a shower room, the system can monitor the entire shower room.

[0066] Users will enjoy a nice hot shower, without having to adjust the temperature, or even touch anything at all. Users simply step into the viewing area, or detection zone, and the shower turns on. Instantly, out comes water at the perfect temperature! When a user steps away, the water turns off. Process control systems ensure that water is circulated in the pipes at the right temperature, even when none of the showers are actually running. With face recognition software, users can receive their own preferred shower settings. Additionally, multiple spray heads at each station can spray a user with water in such a way that very little is wasted. A beam pattern of spray can adapt to the position and orientation of the user's body.

[0067] Pictures obtained by way of capture device 130 are then directed to processor 150 which provides a signal to controller 170. Controller 170 activates one or more actuators 185, 190, and 195. A shower room containing a dozen shower spray heads, each controlled by its own actuator comprised of a solenoid activated valve, may therefore be controlled by a single sensor 101 on the ceiling of the shower room. Such a single sensor is out of the way of vandalism, soap scum buildup, or other problems that would arise if a dozen sensors were distributed throughout the room, one for each shower. Moreover, maintenance and installation are simplified by having one image sensor controlling various shower spray heads. Additionally, the one image sensor may provide other features such as automatically warning building staff if a person has slipped and fallen, or automatically recognizing faces of users, and providing each user with water tempered to the preference of each individual user. Users could also be billed for the exact amount of hot water that they use, assuming that users have previously enrolled in a shower program. Users who have not enrolled may be either locked out of the system so that they cannot use the showers, or they may be provided with limited capability (such as less hot water, cold-only showers, or limited runtime). This would provide users with an incentive to enroll in the shower program.

[0068] The multishower sensor will also act as a deterrent to crime and vandalism in the shower room.

[0069] Sensors may be incorporated into a housing together with actuators, and the housing may be, or may include, optics. For example, sensor 102 is contained in optics 112, together with actuator 195. An example of such a system would include a retrofit sensor operated flush system for a urinal or toilet. The entire system is enclosed in a housing, the top portion of which is optics 112 in the form of an infrared dome that passes infrared light but blocks visible light. A standard hemispherical security dome, approximately 10 centimeters in diameter, may be used to house sensor 102, together with actuator 195 and sufficient control circuits such as image capture device 140 and image processor 160. A controller 170 may also be housed inside the security dome, or the controller may exist at a remote location. In either case, the dome affords an optically transparent housing for sending data, optically, to other similar fixtures or other devices. Moreover, the sensor 102 or other sensors contained in the housing may assist adjacent fixtures. For example, in a row of retrofitted urinals, sensor 102 may detect the presence of user of an adjacent urinal. A sensor at a given urinal together with sensors of adjacent urinals may provide combined networked intelligence to better serve the user of the given urinal. Interprocessor communication may be facilitated along a row of urinals, by data being passed optically from one sensor to the next. Thus information such as usage statistics may propagate optically throughout the bathroom environment, passing from one fixture to the next, even though not all of the fixtures necessarily have wiring connected thereto.

[0070] An actuator 185 and sensor 103 may be separately housed in the same housing comprised of or including optics 113. Alternatively or additionally, actuators such as actuator 190 may be separately controlled by other sensors, the other sensors either monitoring the overall bathroom environment, or being associated with other fixtures. For example, in a row of six urinals, only two of the six urinals might require sensors. Each urinal that has a sensor, for example, mounted inside a hemispherical security dome, can see the user of that urinal as well as users of the urinal to the right and left of that urinal, and decisions to actuate the flush valve of that urinal, as well as the ones to the left and right, can all be made by way of the sensor in that one urinal.

[0071] A client/server model may be implemented for all of the sensors in the smart bathroom or a global network of smart bathrooms. Each sensor may be implemented through Java aplets. This permits any level of sophistication desired. While many installations are quite simple (e.g. little interprocess communication), the degree of interprocess and interfixture communication can be controlled remotely over the Internet. This is useful for monitoring usage patterns for generating statistics (e.g. identifying areas of congestion in the restroom environment). By identifying areas of possible congestion, these problems can often be resolved with software. Systems can be reprogrammed to respond to users in slightly different ways, and therefore user behaviour can be modified slightly. Through slight modifications in user behaviour, efficiency and restroom throughput can be increased. For example, the system might detect that, in a row of hand faucets, the furthest one is used excessively during certain times of day. It might be determined that a homeless person is using it for hair washing purposes, especially if it is somewhat hidden from view. The system can detect this pattern of deviant use, and correct it by adjusting the timing on that particular fixture so that it will time out sooner than the others. This would effectively move that user to another faucet. Thus slight changes in system parameters can be used to effect slight changes in user behaviour.

[0072] Software, such as Java aplets, allow restroom fixtures to communicate with each other, and to communicate with remote sites. Whether the building owner wants to delight users with responsive, predictive fixtures, or please users by keeping the restroom crime-free, the owner can be sure that everyone will be happier, and profits will increase. If crime ever does become a problem, sensors can transmit crime statistics back to your central law enforcement facility. Using VitriView (TM) ceramics for the optics 110, or other system optics can ensure outstanding image quality, and will provide excellent greyscale rendition and tonal fidelity, even in poor light. If crime is a problem, CeramiView(TM) tiles can be replaced with SafetyGlass (TM) tiles (from EXISTech Corporation's public safety products devision), which are known for their color rendition. Proper white balancing of the sensors to compensate for the greenish color cast of fluorescent lights or other bathroom fixtures will ensure forensic quality of the images for use in courtroom proceedings. As with all video-based machine vision technology, accurate color reproduction in the presence of mixed lighting (as when natural daylight entering through windows mixes with fluorescent lights) may be addressed with ATW (Auto Tracking White) sensors. Hair colour, eye colour, and even the colour of clothing are important identifiers of those who might, whether through vandalism or recklessness, reduce profits and the satisfaction of other users. Rapid apprehension of suspects is important to maintaining a crime-free airport, shopping mall, arena, or other establishment. Drug use will fall, and everyone will be happier, except terrorists, theives, or those engaged in other forms of criminal activity.

[0073] Additionally, the intelligent bathroom fixtures and systems will help enhance the privacy of users. Privacy enhancing fixtures and bathroom control systems ensure that normal users need not be disturbed by police foot patrols into the restroom areas, or by security guards entering simply to make inspections. Thus the aquionics bathroom control system of the invention will maintain the cleanliness, safety, security, and privacy of the occupants in a smart building. Aquionics refers to this kind of electronic control of water in plumbing systems.

[0074]FIG. 2 depicts two sensors 201 and 202 mounted in a light fixture above a row of urinals 200. Sometimes urinals have dividers 200D but regardless of whether or not dividers 200D are present, sensors 201 and 202 are positioned so that they have a clear view of a detection zone where bathroom users might be standing in front of the four urinals. Sensors 201 and 202 are preferably cameras that can see through optics 210 in the lamp housing 210H. Housing 210H may actually be made of material that is transparent in the portion around lamp 299 and around sensors 201 and 202. Since bathroom light fixtures are often made waterproof (especially the kinds of fixtures used in shower rooms), the technology to make the lamp housing waterproof can be used to accommodate the sensors and additional waterproofing is not needed for the sensors since they can be place right in the lamp housing. Moreover, because the lamp is generally hot, the heat will tend to drive out any small amount of moisture present, or at least will lower the relative humidity since relative humidity decreases with increasing temperature.

[0075] Moreover, because of heat in the lamp housing, optics 210 will not fog up due to bathroom moisture. Optics 210 may in fact be or include part of housing 210H, so that no modifications are necessary to the lamp fixture. For example, cameras can simply be installed into the inside of the lamp fixture to look down upon the bathroom users.

[0076] Manufacture of such an intelligent light fixture provides the advantage that the two cameras will be spaced an exactly known distance apart, and have an exactly known relative orientation. In this way, the epipolar geometry may be known or determined in advance of installation. Thus the light fixture provides a conveniently calibrated stereo rig.

[0077] A typical lamp such as a fluorescent light has a convenient length that allows the two cameras to have a good baseline distance between them, so that they are nicely separated, yet the distance and orientation between them remain fixed by the intelligent light fixture.

[0078] Additionally, since the light from the light fixture is known in relation to the sensors 201 and 202, the stereo rig is also photocalibrated, in the sense that the light source distribution and orientation, etc., are known with respect to the sensors.

[0079] In one embodiment of the invention processor 250 which receives input from capture devices 230 and 240 also controls the light source of lamp 299 by way of a light controller 298. Light controller 298 modulates lamp 299 in a known fashion. In one such embodiment, light controller 298 reduces the output of lamp 299 slightly in every odd numbered frame of video captured from camera sensor 201 and 202. Light controller 298 increases the output of lamp 299 slightly in every even numbered frame. Over a time period, with signal averaging, the response of the bathroom due to only lamp 299 is considered. This arrangement provides a lock-in camera system wherein the response of the bathroom to an individual light source such as lamp 299 is determined.

[0080] In some embodiments, other similar light sources are used, and communicate with one another, so that a lightspace of images is produced, either as photometric stereo, or as a set of lightvectors characterizing the response of the bathroom to a plurality of different light sources, for each of one or more sensors in the bathroom.

[0081] In one embodiment, even if only one such intelligent light fixture is used, the light fixture also contains infrared communications equipment, so that it can communicate wirelessly with the actuators 290, 291, 292, and 293. In a preferred embodiment, capture devices 230 and 240, as well as processor 250 and light controller 298, are housed inside the intelligent light fixture together with lamp 299 and sensors 201 and 202. The intelligent light fixture thus observes the users of the bathroom fixtures. For example, a user of the urinal second from the right is detected and when the user departs, as determined by sensors 201 and 202, in overlapping fields of view from 201L to 201R and 202L to 202R respectively, the intelligent light fixture then wirelessly sends a signal to actuator 292 to flush that urinal.

[0082] An additional function of the intelligent light fixture can be provided, such as to reduce crime, or to detect abnormal activity. The additional function may also be simply to automate the function of the light fixture itself, or to automate the function of other light fixtures in the facility. In one preferred embodiment, each intelligent light fixture communicates with other intelligent light fixtures and, based on a map of where people are located in the bathroom, the light fixture outputs are gradually raised and lowered so that a lightspace is present around the persons in the bathroom, but light is not wasted. This system also avoids the abrupt start and stop of lights that might startle the bathroom user. Instead the lights gradually rise and fall in output, to track the user, so that the user is not even aware they are being tracked. In a large bathroom facility such as a locker room complex, the benefit in light savings is provided together with intelligent control of many fixtures throughtout the facility. The bathroom ventillation systems can also be incorporated into this system to provide for an intelligent energy-efficient facility.

[0083]FIG. 2A depicts an intelligent light fixture suitable for use in various rooms of a smart building, including bathrooms. Two sensors 201 and 202 are mounted at either end in a light fixture housing 210H in which the lower half of the housing is made of partially transmissive and partially reflective mirror comprising optics 210. Baffles 210B keep light from lamp 299 from shining directly into the sensors, so that light must bounce off subject matter in the room before going into the sensors. Preferably the mirror is approximately 10% transmissive so that a small amount of direct light such as in light ray 270 illuminates the room. Most of the light, such as ray 271, however, reflects off the mirror as ray 271 which bounces off a ceiling surface 260 or a ceiling reflector surface 260, to generate soft light rays 272. The fixture is suspended from the ceiling by four wires. Wires 261 and 262 provide a 12 volt D.C. power source, whereas wires 263 and 264 provide data communications and networking to other light fixtures, bathroom fixtures, controllers, actuators, or the like.

[0084] Soft light is commonly used in photographic and film/video studios to obtain better lighting. However, such soft indirect light has recently also become fashionable in buildings and homes. Thus the light fixture of the invention can be used throughout homes, offices, bathrooms, and the like to provide pleasant soft light. The camera sensors 201 and 202 can also detect people and adjust the lights to suit their needs. Preferably there is inter-fixture communication so that the fixtures can work together to build a map of the entire building occupancy patterns, and intelligent decisions can be made about which fixtures should be on. Thus, for example, fixtures outside a bathroom can see that a person is heading toward the bathroom, and can then turn on the bathroom lights before the person gets to the bathroom. Once in the bathroom, the lights in the bathroom might see that the person is undressing, and the bathroom control system can therefore make an intelligent inference that the person is likely to take a shower. Thus the intelligent bathroom control system turns on the lights in the shower room before the person arrives there. Thus the lights themselves operate in an intelligent user-friendly way to maintain, for the users, an illusion that the lights are always on. Thus the user is not startled by having to walk into a dark bathroom and have the lights suddenly come on, as would be the case with motion detectors of the prior art.

[0085] Moreover, the bathroom control system preferably brings the lights up slowly rather than having sudden switching on and off. Lighting control is anticipatory, in the sense that the lights will switch on in the bathroom every time a person walks toward the bathroom door, whether or not the person uses the bathroom. In this way, because the changes are gradual, and because the changes are anticipatory (e.g. lights come on before a person can see the lights) occupants of the smart building do not notice the effects of the energy savings measures inherent in such a lighting system. Thus energy is saved without inconveniencing the user.

[0086] With the intelligent light fixtures of the invention, suppose, for example, that a user approaches the entrance to the men's room, and prior to the user entering far enough to see into the room, the lights turn on just before he enters, so that he is not startled by the sudden onset of light, but electricity is still saved by not illuminating an empty restroom. The user approaches a urinal and there is a courtesy flush to freshen the bowl prior to use. After the user urinates and steps away, the urinal flushes automatically. Meanwhile, in anticipation of the user's eventual desire to wash his hands, nice warm water begins to circulate through the lavatories before the user is finished urinating. By the time the user walks over to one of the lavatories and puts his hands under the faucet, where the water turns on automatically, the water is already at the right temperature, even though it was not running yet. Merely anticipating the user's arrival, warm water has been already circulating in the pipes, before the water is actually switched on. The user is delighted to find the water at just the perfect temperature. Meanwhile, electricity is already flowing through the heating elements in the hand dryer, in anticipation of the blower fan that will soon be activated automatically by the smart bathroom control system. Thus the intelligent plumbing system of the invention can monitor patters of behaviour and anticipate the user's actions. In this way, user satisfaction can be maximized while costs can be minimized.

[0087] Additionally, because the intelligent light fixtures are present in all areas of the building, including the bathrooms, other fixtures such as ventillation, heating, and bathroom fixtures, can be controlled by the smart light fixtures.

[0088] Moreover, the bathroom fixtures can contain additional sensors that affect the lights. For example, when a toilet sees that a user is occupying the toilet, it can tell the lights to stay on, even if the lights cannot see the user of the toilet who is inside a toilet stall.

[0089] Thus the intelligent bathroom control system can include smart fixtures, smart lighting, and other sensors that all communicate with one another to create a user-friendly environment.

[0090] Additional features include user safety and security, by way of watching the user to make sure that the user is attended to when encountering danger through tripping and falling, such as when slipping on a soapy shower room floor. Additional benefits to the occupants of such a building include reduced crime, reduced danger, and improved safety, security, and efficiency.

[0091]FIG. 3 depicts an alternate embodiment of an intelligent bathroom light fixture, where camera sensor 301, having field of view defined between rays 301L and 301R, is for being installed above a detection zone of the bathroom. Hemispherical partially mirrored optics 310 allow the camera to see out through the partial silvering. Such partial silvering is typical of light bulbs made for indirect “soft light” in which half of the bulb housing 310H is silvered optics 310 to be reflective so that it reflects light upward to the ceiling, where the light rays such as rays 310L and 310R bounce off the ceiling to produce a nice soft light suitable for a pleasant bathroom environment where ceilings are often painted white.

[0092] Such a silvering produces an opportunity for concealment of camera 301 because auxiliary optics 310A reflect the light inside the bulb in the same way, while protecting camera sensor 301 from stray light. Additionally, concealment of camera sensor 301 in a light fixture makes it hard to detect because the light is too bright for users to look at directly, and therefore the same light that helps the camera 301 see better makes it harder for vandals to detect the presence of sensor 301.

[0093] In another embodiment of the invention, optics 310 is comprised of a hemispherical partially reflecting and partially transmitting mirror approximately thirty centimeters in diameter, suspended from three wires connected to points equally spaced around the circumference of optics 310. One wire is a ground, and another provides power to a light source in the mirror, so that indirect light is nicely bounced off the ceiling. The third wire provides communications signals with respect to the ground wire. In this embodiment, a number of sensors and communications systems are concealed in the mirror, including one or more cameras to completely monitor a large detection zone below the bathroom light fixture.

[0094]FIG. 4 shows a vitrionic light fixture ceiling tile, with sensors 401, 402, 403, and 404 near the four corners of the ceiling tile. Visible light sources 499 provide light in the bathroom. A satisfactory visible light source 499 is a white LED. Sensors 401-404 are preferably flat board cameras embedded into the ceiling tile. Preferably the ceiling tile is made of transparent material so that the four cameras can see down from the ceiling, and so that light sources can be embedded in the tile material. A vitrionic light source is a light source in which electronic devices are embedded in a transparent glasslike material such as plastic, polycarbonate, or glass.

[0095] Thus using vitrionics, the entire light fixture can be made into a flat ceiling tile for low voltage operation suitable for use in shower rooms, or above bath tubs, etc.. One or more vitrionic ceiling tiles may be placed into a drop ceiling as one or more of the ceiling tiles, or the vitrionic tile may be cemented in place. For residential use, a version with adhesive backing can be used to install on the ceiling of a shower stall, or the like, to provide good lighting therein.

[0096] A light controller modulates the output of the various lights, in conjunction with image capture from the sensors 401-404, so that a lightspace is produced. A three dimensional model of the bathroom is automatically generated over time, as a time-averaged signal that is assumed to represent the empty bathroom. Users of the bathroom can thus be tracked by way of photometric stereo, or lightspace processing methods.

[0097] Optionally, interspersed with these visible light sources are some infrared light sources 490. A satisfactory visible light source 490 is an infrared LED. Using at least some infrared light sources allows the light sources to be modulated more aggressively without being noticable to users of the bathroom. Some of the light sources 490 and 499 can also be used to modulate information bearing signals, to be sent to intelligent fixtures in the bathroom. Additionally, other sensors may be installed in the vitrionic ceiling tile.

[0098] Alternatively the vitrionic ceiling tile may embody a mixture of vitrionics and materials placed behind the tile. Thus, for example, the light sources may be vitrionic whereas the sensors may be located behind the tile, looking through it.

[0099] Similar tiles may be construced for walls, to create some pleasing lighting effects, or to display messages in the bathroom environment. The lighting, messages, or the like, can also be responsive to the identity of bathroom users. For example, the intelligent bathroom can recognize particular persons and display a message or produce a lighting environment tailored to that individual. Targeted marketing advertisements or health warnings thus become possible.

[0100]FIG. 5 shows the use of CeramiView (TM) tiles in an intelligent bathroom. CeramiView(TM) tiles manufactured by EXISTech Corporation, are available in black, chrome, gold, and copper, and add a nice accent to a tiled wall, such as a bathroom wall. The aesthetics of an otherwise stark wall of solid white tile is much improved with, for example, one or two rows of CeramiView black tiles.

[0101] EXISTech Corporation's FiberFix (TM) backing makes installation much simpler. Tiles come pre-attached to a fiberglass and/or fiber-optic backing strip. Tiles are permanently affixed to the FiberFix backing, so that they can be quickly and easily cemented to any wall during installation. FiberFix is available in 50 foot and 100 foot rolls. This makes it easy for the distributor to sell by the foot (three tiles per running foot).

[0102] The benefits will be immediately apparent, whether in a small restaurant kitchen, or a large food processing plant. Here are just a few of the possible applications:

[0103] Process control;

[0104] Food processing security;

[0105] Secure mass decontamination shower facilities or cleansing stations;

[0106] Public safety/security;

[0107] Occupancy detectors for heating, ventillation, and air conditioning applications;

[0108] Electronic plumbing;

[0109] Privacy enhancement.

[0110] In FIG. 5 it is assumed that there is behind-the-wall access. At the time of construction, a row of CeramiView (TM) tiles is run around the outside of the bathroom. The tiles comprise optics 510 and viewport 510V. Normal tiles 510N can be plain white bathroom tiles, which will look nice together with the CeramiView tiles, or the normal tiles 510N can be made of the same material as the CeramiView tiles but not be view tiles. In the latter case, for example, the entire bathroom can be tiled in shiny black tiles, but only some of the shiny black tiles are viewtiles.

[0111] Prior to installation of any tiles, it is decided at what height a row of CeramiView tiles will be installed. Alternatively, especially if the viewtiles are to be mixed with ordinary white bathroom tile, two rows of CeramiView tiles can be run for a better aesthetic, even if only one row of the tiles is going to be used for monitoring the bathroom environment. A double row creates a sense of visual balance.

[0112] In a typical installation, for example, over a row of urinals, there may be one row of CeramiView that runs just above where the urinals will be installed. This is the active row where the sensors are contained. A second row, a couple of tiles further up, is often placed simply for aesthetics (e.g. none of these tiles need be used for viewing users of the urinals).

[0113] Once it has been decided where to place the view tiles, viewing holes are drilled in the bathroom wall. It is preferable that the view tiles then be cemented to the wall before cementing the other tiles to the wall. Preferably, before cementing the viewtiles to the wall, the wall, especially where the holes have been drilled, is cleaned and painted black.

[0114] After the viewtiles are cemented to the wall, regular tile (from another vendor, or from EXISTech Corp.) is installed around the viewtiles.

[0115] Alternatively, workers can tile all the way up to just under where the first row of CeramiView tiles are to be placed. Then the workers mark off squares on the wall for where they plan for each CeramiView tile to go. They locate the center of each square, and mark this point.

[0116] The workers can either decide which squares require a viewport, and drill into the wall at these points, or they can drill for every tile, or every second tile. Generally it is sufficient to drill for every second tile.

[0117] Rolls of CeramiView will be available for every second tile, in which only every second tile is a view tile. In this case the intermediate tiles can match the normal tiles 510N and this provides a nice appearance in which the accent tiles (the black, gold, or chrome viewtiles) are spaced 8 inches (approximately 20 centimeters) apart with the standard 4 inch (approximately 10 centimeter) CeramiView tile.

[0118] There are two kinds of viewtiles, the vitrionic viewtiles that have sensors already built in. and the viewtiles for later sensor installation. Each drilled hole defines a viewing area. Assuming the latter kind of tile, sensors will later be mounted, from behind. Depending on the size of sensor, the hole size may vary. However, it is better to err on making the holes too large, as the sensor can always be inserted and stuffed with extra padding from behind. Also, if it is unknown exactly where the fixtures will be located, or of it is expected the fixtures will be moved, extra holes should be drilled. The extra holes don't need to be used, but that way if fixtures need to be moved (e.g. as when a water closet is moved to convert an installation to ADA standards with enlargement of one stall for wheelchair access) the sensors can simply be moved from behind the wall. All that is required is to install the sensors into different viewing holes, from behind the wall.

[0119] For each fixture, installers simply round off the location to the nearest tile unit, so that viewtile optics 511 is used since it is closest to the fixture with actuator 591. Likewise viewtile optics 512 is selected being nearest the urinal with actuator 592. Finally, viewtile optics 513 is selected as being closest to actuator 593. For each of the selected viewtiles, sensors are installed from behind the wall into corresponding viewports 511V, 512V, and 513V.

[0120]FIG. 5A shows a shrouded version of the viewtile, in which a square viewpipe 510P is attached to the back of the viewtile optics 510 at time of manufacture. Thus viewport 510V is co-located with a viewpipe. Typically the viewpipe is 2 inches square (approximately 5 cm by 5 cm).

[0121]FIG. 5B shows a low cost embodiment in which view tile optics 510 is simply a dark glass tile having transmissivity typically being less than 10%. A hole 510H drilled into the wall 510W forms the viewpipe into which sensors are installed.

[0122] The viewtile aspect of the invention allows for a simple upgrade path in which standard electronic plumbing sensors and control systems such as those manufactured by Sloan Valve corporation may be used initially. Over time, the sensors can be easily upgraded from behind the wall, so that there is no need for construction or expensive repairs when it comes time to service or update the sensors.

[0123] Additionally, the viewtiles may be expanded so that television screens can be inserted behind the walls, in which urinal users can see advertisements through the viewtiles. This arrangement prevents vandalism, and maximizes efficiency because apparatus installed behind the walls can watch users, as well as inform users.

[0124] Electronic Plumbing has ushered in a new wave of reduced cost and reduced waste, together with increased efficiency. However, as with any new technology, there is a very small portion of the user-population who do not appreciate the benefits of increased cleanliness, safety, security, and privacy that the viewtiles can provide. Vandalism has always been a problem, especially with new technologies that call attention to themselves. All it takes to cost a building owner or a company is for the occasional user to tamper with a fixture or sensor. Even so-called “tamperproof” sensor fixtures invite vandals to deface the exposed lenses either by deliberately scratching them, or by covering them with chewing gum, duct tape, or defacing them with markers, paint, or similar materials. Even mild scratches on these lenses can make the intelligent bathroom algorithms see blurry pictures. Even slight blurring of the system's vision seriously reduces its ability to see the user clearly. If the system cannot obtain a clear view of the user, it cannot serve the user. Thus CeramiView's vandal resistant viewing windows are clearly an answer to improved accuracy of intelligent bathroom systems.

[0125] With CeramiView, the sensors are completely hidden from view. Moreover, with CeramiView, the users will not know which tiles have sensors behind them. Vandalism, whether arising from malicious hate of a better future, or simply arising from curiosity, costs us all. Through complete concealment of all sensory apparatus, vandalism is eliminated, resulting in increased savings, and increased profits. Moreover, in shower room applications, soap and shampoo that often splashes onto the wall and runs down the wall, will not get clogged into exposed lenses. Sensor products from other vendors quickly clog with soap residue, due to the inset lenses. Again, soapy lenses produce blurry images. A sharp clear view of bathroom users will keep them happy by delivering the utmost in user-satisfaction.

[0126] Large orders for OEM applications can be custom-manufactured. Each CeramiView tile can be fitted with a custom sensor. Alternatively, the sensory tiles can be interleaved every third or sixth tile, with non-sensing tiles. For example, the manufacturer can outfit every sixth tile with a sensor, so that the sensor-equipped tiles can each be lined up to where fixtures will go, on standard 24 inch (approximately 61 centimeter) spacing. The manufacturer can outfit every third tile, for use in a shower room, where every sixth tile has a sensor suitable for shower operation, while the tiles in between have sensors suitable for automatic touchless soap or shampoo dispensers. However, as sensor technology costs go down, it is expected that in the future, CeramiView will be provided with sensors in every tile. Thus the bathroom designer will simply connect to the sensors to be used, and leave the others disconnected.

[0127] Special sensors can also be installed for controlling costs by monitoring shampoo and soap usage at a central remote site. By monitoring restroom usage patters, facility managers can help reduce or eliminate deviant behaviour such as excessively long showering, shaving in the shower room, vagrancy, the washing of clothes in the shower room. Using the appropriate software, with artificial intelligence, management can be sure to maximize user satisfaction by making certain one inconsiderate user does not decrease the user-satisfaction of other users.

[0128] Additionally, a dense lattice of image sensors in the bathroom environment can have a large range of secondary uses. Web-based client/server software can ensure maximum efficiency, optimal traffic flow, and increased user-satisfaction. Users will appreciate the efforts taken to make their experience pleasant.

[0129] Moreover, dummy tiles can be installed, or viewtiles can be installed and never used, so that users will never know whether or not they are being watched by the intelligent building, The use of CeramiView tile simply because if its outstanding appearance and durability, thus provides additional safety and security. Thus, for example, the use of CeramiView black as an accent on an otherwise stark white tiled wall, can provide added benefits even if there are no sensors installed behind the wall.

[0130] Thus even when not taking advantage of the optical transparency of CeramiView, kitchen staff, restaurant clerks, or bathroom users will never be sure whether or not the wall has eyes. In many establishments, simply installing CeramiView, with no sensors whatsoever, will put an end to petty locker room pilfering, vandalism, or graffiti in bathrooms.

[0131] In this case it is preferable to keep a couple of extra tiles around to show to employees of an establishment where the tiles are being used. Seeing is believing, and once they've seen the light (through a scrap piece of CeramiView) they will think twice before pilfering from the employee locker room, or vandalizing a valuable business establishment.

[0132]FIG. 5C shows a privacy protecting urinal 520. The urinal has a viewing material 530 through which a sensor 540 can operate the flushing of the fixture. Sensor 540 is preferably an infrared video camera, using a video motion detection program such as the one called “motion” that comes with the standard GNU Linux (TM) Debian distribution. Viewing material 530 is preferably transparent in a getting of high sensitivity to sensor 540, and less transparent in a getting of human vision. For example, material 530 may be transparent in the infrared but not transparent in the visible portion of the light spectrum.

[0133] Such an automatic flush fixture may therefore provide a secondary usage as a privacy protector for drug testing. Rather than requiring the subject of the test to strip down and urinate in the presence of a guard, the apparatus of the invention allows the subject to urinate in private while the delivery of the sample is documented by way of a video recording apparatus.

[0134]FIG. 6 shows a smart bath tub. Bath tubs and shower enclosures are often made of acrylic, or of polycarbonate. In a preferred embodiment the tub is made of smoked polycarbonate, or smoked acrylic, so that it forms optics 610. Such a tub will have a black appearance to a user of the tub, but image sensors 603 and 604 concealed under the tub will be able to see the user of the tub. Additional image sensors 601 and 602 may also be concealed behind the dark transparent bath tub material in such a way that they provide a field of view 622 of the bather above the waterline 650 during typical usage.

[0135] The intelligent bath tub has no knobs, or other adjustments, and is therefore much easier to use. The user simply strips down, and sits in the tub, and then the tub fills with water by way of activation of actuator 190 (see FIG. 1). Sensors 601 and 602 also monitor the amount of water in the tub, and as the tub gets close to full, the water flow is gradually reduced. A sophisticated control system is possible without much cost, since the sensors and processors and controllers are already present.

[0136] Preferably software running on processor 150 or controller 170 (see FIG. 1) determines if the user is clothed (e.g. when a user is cleaning the tub) and only fills the tub when the user is not clothed (indicating that the user wishes to have a bath). In some embodiments, a single image sensor 600 is sufficient to see into the entire tub, as well as up and out of the tub when the water is still, up to and including a critical angle of approximately 41.81 degrees (an angle of approximately 0.73).

[0137] Additionally, if the system sees that the user is standing naked in the tub, shower 699 is turned on automatically.

[0138] Thus the intelligent bath tub serves users of the tub by way of control of an actuator in response to user activity.

[0139] The explanation of this tub has assumed that there is only one user, but the invention can also be applied to multi user baths such as whirlpools, jacuzzis, steam rooms, and other bathing environments. For example, a bath can begin to fill when a user sits in the tub, and then jets can massage the user's body. If another user enters the tub, other jets can be activated for that other user. A pattern of jets can operate for optimal user satisfaction, given the distribution of users in the bath.

[0140] In a sauna bath, heat flow can be directed in response to the occupants of the sauna, so that the majority of users experience the best sauna bath that the bathroom environment can provide, through intelligent control of air jets, heaters, and ventillation systems.

[0141] The partially transparent material of the plumbing fixture of the invention is not limited to baths, but also includes other fixtures such as urinals and water closets. For example, a Securinal (TM) privacy-protecting drug testing urinal is made of smoked glass, and contains camera sensors to provide the automatic flush functionality, with a secondary concomitant function of protecting privacy. Privacy is a problem with drug testing because it is often necessary for persons to urinate in the presence of a supervisory staff member who ensures that the subject of the drug test does not cheat by using other urine smuggled into the test center. With the Securinal (TM), however, the subject can enjoy complete privacy while urinating into a drug analysis urinal that also keeps a video record of the urine delivery process. In this way the subject can be completely alone while urinating, and this will serve useful especially for subjects suffering from shy bladder syndrome. Privacy is the right to be left alone, and thus Securinal greatly protects the privacy of individuals undergoing drug testing.

[0142]FIG. 7 shows a concomitant function possible with the intelligent bathroom control of the invention. It is assumed that the automation of fixtures will cause sensors to be installed in virtually all bathroom fixtures of the future. It is also expected that the most economical sensors will be video cameras, which now only cost $10 in mass production, whereas other sensors such as specialized infrared position sensing devices now used in electronic plumbing systems cost much more because they are specialized devices. Similarly radar and sonar systems commonly used for occupancy detection (for automatic door openers, lighting control, etc.) cost much more. Therefore once these cameras are installed in most fixtures, new uses can emerge.

[0143] What is meant by “concomitant function”, or “concomitant use” is a secondary (or tertiary, etc.) function or secondary (or tertiary, etc.) use for an additional capability. Thus having cameras in the bath will allow, for example, caregivers to remotely monitor the elderly, and come to their rescue or dispatch emergency services should there be danger encountered.

[0144] Since a processor is already present to operate the intelligent bathroom fixture(s), additional software can run in the background to ensure safety in the bathroom. For example, the bath tub that is sensor operated, can also detect drowning, and sound an alarm. A method of providing concomitant services includes the steps of data or image capture 700, followed by detection, estimation, and decision of flesh below water. If a decision 711 is made that there is no flesh below water, the image capture is repeated. If there is a decision 712 that there is flesh below water, it is assumed that one or more persons are using the bath. The most dangerous situation is when a user is alone in the tub, and sinks down into the water. Since a hot bath induces relaxation it is possible for the bather to fall down into the water and drown. If there is flesh below the water, it is decided, by way of sensors 701 and 702, whether there is the head of at least one bather above water. If the decision 721 that there is at least one head above water, the process continues. If the decision 722 that there is no head above water is made, an alarm is sounded after a short time interval.

[0145] The example of drowning detection is not meant to limit the scope of the concomitant function aspect of the invention but merely to illustrate one possibility. Security, safety, and remote monitoring are other examples of concomitant functions possible with the invention.

[0146]FIG. 8 shows an embodiment of the invention for controlling two toilets 800 in stalls with dividers 800D that are monitored by a single sensor 801 on the wall in the plane of the diveder between the two toilets. The sensor has a field of view from 801L to 801R. A satisfactory sensor is a video camera equipped with a wide angle or fisheye lens. Preferably the sensor is housed in a security dome, to seal it from moisture. Preferably the sensor is mounted high enough that it also has a view into the bowls of the toilets 800 so that it can see how much, if any, waste is present in the bowls, and whether the waste is solid waste or liquid waste. Preferably the actuator 190 of the invention can actuate different strengths of flushing based on a visual inspection of the bowl contents.

[0147] Sensor 801 thus watches users of the toilets to determine when they are finished using the toilets, and flushes each of the toilets when its respective user is finished using it. Thus in a long row of, for example, a dozen toilets, only six sensors are needed.

[0148] Sensor 801 preferably also sees bowl contents, and the flushing of each of the toilets is preferably responsive to the respective contents of the bowl of that toilet. Alternatively, additional sensors may be installed in the bowls so that an overhead or wall mounted sensor detects users, and the bowl sensor examines the contents of the bowl. Such a system also provides concomitant features, such as reports to medical staff of the health of users. A wall mounted sensor 801 running face detection identifies users, and the bowl sensors examine health, so that automated reports to physicians may be made. Additionally, a defecography feature can be included in the concomitant features of the invention. Thus the automatic flush toilet of the invention can automatically assist in health care, thus reducing health care costs. Accordingly, these new toilets could be required by insurance companies, and government grants could also be applied as incentives to upgrade from the old manual flush toilets.

[0149] Alternatively, bowl sensors may operate in the infrared to observe blood vessel patterns in the posterior portion of the user, and thus provide positive identification of the user. Even users trying to hide from face recognition by wearing disguises, will thus eventually be identified by toilets with the bowl sensors, since it is almost impossible to stay completely covered and use a toilet. Criminals could be automatically found because sooner or later they would need to use a public toilet. Since defecation out on the street is a socially unacceptable behaviour, the concomitant function aspect of the intelligent bathroom fixtures of the invention can therefore help ensure identification of criminals if these toilets are used widely.

[0150] FIG. SA depicts an automatic flush toilet having an active infrared sensor 800A. Automatic flush toilets are less commonly used than automatic flush urinals because toilets are usually in stalls, and stalls sometimes have stainless steel doors (especially when situated near shower areas in order to avoid being corroded by high moisture). The doors typically reflect light straight back to the sensors, causing reduction in sensitivity and reliability. Sensor 800A being an active sensor (e.g. preferably an infrared video camera with infrared light sources around the camera lens) shines light rays such as ray 822A straight ahead which returns rays such as ray 823A, not likely to be a problem. However, some rays such as ray 820A will return rays such as rays 821A back to the sensor.

[0151]FIG. 8A′ shows an image 810A displayed from sensor 800A in which a large blob or bright spot of light 830A together with vertical and horizontal smearing of bright light 831A saturates portions of the sensor array of sensor 800A.

[0152]FIG. 8A″ shows an image mask 840A in which a region 850A is masked out, or made less sensitive in the calculation of video motion sensing or total returned light.

[0153] Thus the remaining areas of the image provide an accurate measure of activity or occupancy at the toilet. When activity or occupancy has ended, the toilet can therefore be flushed automatically. Additionally there is enough image area not masked, to distinguish, for example, in a men's toilet, between a person standing, and a person sitting, so that a standing use can be followed by a brief flush, whereas a sitting use can be followed by a stronger flush.

[0154]FIG. 8B depicts the situation when the stall door is closed, in which ray 820B emerges from sensor 800B and returns as rays 821B saturating the middle portion of the sensor 800B.

[0155]FIG. 8B′ shows the image 810B of sensor 800B with blob of light 830B in the center. The center rows and colums of the sensor array will also typically be washed out, so that only the image area in the four corners of the sensor array will be reliable.

[0156]FIG. 8B″ shows the appropriate image mask 840B with region 850B being ignored or considered with lesser sensitivity.

[0157] The system is preferably an intelligent system that learns over time, the pattern of the swinging door. In actual fact, the blob of light will move from the center when the door is closed to the left, by varying degrees, depending on how far the door happens to be left ajar. Thus the system will learn to mask out or at least reduce the its sensitivity when considering the left side of the image. The system will preferably automatically weight the right side of the image higher in a probabilistic model formulation.

[0158] Likewise when the system is installed in stalls where the doors swing the other way, it will also adapt there.

[0159]FIG. 8C shows a stall door that swings the other way.

[0160]FIG. 8C′ shows the corresponding image 810C with light blob 830C to the right of center.

[0161]FIG. 8C″ shows the appropriate image mask 840C with a region 850C being weighted down in the processing of the images for further decision making and machine vision tasks.

[0162]FIG. 9 shows a system in which actuator 190 is a proportional rather than binary actuator. An important aspect of the invention is proportional control that becomes possible when more information is known about bathroom users and their activities. An adaptive lavatory, for example, can spray all the water on the user's hands and waste none missing the user's hands, if it can see the user's hands and control the beam shape in the beam of water. Likewise in FIG. 9, a bather 660 is seen by sensor 600 which can see exactly where the bather is and which way the bather is facing. In this example, the bath is used as a swimming bath where a pump motor 990 is for pumping a large flow of water against the direction that the bather 660 is swimming in.

[0163] Baths that pump water against the direction of a bather are known in the art, such as the product with trade name SwimEX (TM), but such systems have a control panel to adjust the flow, such that the bather needs to swim up to the front of the bath tub, in order to control the flow. Thus if the bather cannot keep up, the bather cannot get to the front of the tub to turn down the intensity of the flow. Although a safety crash bar may be located at the back of the tub as emergency shutoff, the embodiment of the intelligent bath shown in FIG. 9 allows a more graceful and gradual proportional control of bather position. Sensor 600 watches bather 660 and captures pictures with capture device 130. Processor 150 determines bather position in the bath tub, and increases the intensity of the pump 990 by actuator 190 whenever the bather swims toward the front of the tub, and reduces the intensity when the bather drifts back to the back of the tub. In this way the bather can relax in the tub, and swim at whatever rate is desired by the bather, and the bath tub will actively help the bather avoid crashing into the front or back walls of the tub.

[0164]FIG. 10 shows a sensor operated column shower 1000C. In this example, six stations are used, but this number of stations in no way is meant to limit the scope of the invention. Optics 1010 is comprised of a single sheet of smoked polycarbonate that is heated and bent around the outside circumference of the round sheet metal (stainless steel) column, and then inserted inside the column, after six round viewing holes are drilled through the metal. A typical installation of this invention uses optics 1010 with approximately 15% transmissivity, so that the degree of light coming back from light that first passes into the viewing window and back out is 2.25%, which falls nicely below the 4% or so level of light reflected from typical such material. This allows color cameras to be used in the column. When the column is used as a regular shower in a typical locker room setting, it can also double as a mass decontamination facility in times of emergency, thus having full color video feeds assists remote decon officers in determining, for example, if a powder on a patient's body is grey powder such as might indicate anthrax, or some other color of powder. In a typical installation, one such column is placed in the hexagonal men's shower room of a mass decontamination facility as described in Canadian Patent 02303611, whereas another is placed in the women's shower room. Since there are six cameras in each shower and six cameras in the central triage room described in Canadian Patent 02303611, there are a total of 18 cameras, which can be displayed on two television sets as a 3 by 3 mosaic of images (a 9-up image on each TV). This allows two TV sets to be used, one for the men's side and the other for the women's side. Privacy is thus guaranteed, by having one television display for being viewed by male decon officers, and another for being viewed by female decon officers. Similarly video archives saved for training purposes, or for evidence, may be viewed on the appropriate televisions in this configuration, to maintain privacy of users of these facilities. A square lattice (e.g. a 3 by 3 “9-up”) of images ensures the same aspect ratio of any one image, so that the images efficiently use the TV screen real estate at each of the respective male and female decon officer's stations.

[0165] In column 1000C an adhesive sealant makes the inside of the column water tight. Six video cameras are installed in the column with a 45 degree mirror on each one. Every second camera is pointing up from underneath, while the other three point down from above. The cameras are shown in dashed lines in the figure (hidden lines) since they are inside the column and not in view. The three that are toward the front are shown as heavy dashed lines, and denoted as sensors 1001F, whereas the ones toward the back are shown in thin dashed lines and are denoted as sensors 1001B. A PC104 computer embodies video capture devices 1050 and processor 1070. Actuators 1091, 1092, 1093, 1094, 1095, and 1096 are comprised of solenoid activated valves that control the flow of water to showerheads 1000H. Appropriate software in processor 1070 detects the presence of users, and turns on the appropriate showerheads where flesh is detected. In this way no water is wasted. The array of showerheads may also be made more dense, so that a more finely tuned beam control can be attained, where the position and orientation of all flesh in the shower environment is determined and flesh in a target zone is sprayed with water, where little or no water is directed in directions where no flesh is present to receive the spraying.

[0166] Because of the high cost of capturing and processing decon runoff, this embodiment of the invention can help to minimize the amount of wastewater produced, as well as minimize the use of water (or decon solution).

[0167]FIG. 10A depicts images of four bathers using four stations of a six station column shower, along with an image of a fifth bather approaching one of the stations. A decon officer may remotely monitor the facility by way of six television screens 1020 or similar displays showing motion picture images M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, and M6. Images M1, M4, and M5 depict bathers standing at their stations each right under a nozzle of the column shower. Image M3 depicts a bather approaching a station.

[0168] An automatic face recognition system indicates if any of the bathers are previously enrolled. An enrollment condition is indicated for bathers in image M1 and M5 by way of enrollment indicators E1 and E5 respectively.

[0169]FIG. 10B depicts a better way of showing the same data on a single television screen 1040. Images M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, and M6 undergo a coordinate transformation to become images 1099M1, 1099M2, 1099M3, 1099M4, 1099M5, and 1099M6 respectively. Each of these undergoes a coordinate transformation from Cartesian coordinates to polar coordinates, so that, for example, rectangular motion picture image M1 becomes a pie-shaped piece denoted as motion picture image 1099M1 in the field of view of television screen 1040.

[0170] Polar to Cartesian coordinate transformations are well known, and provide an image space somewhat like a Plan Position Indicator (PPI) familar in radar theory. Thus a decon officer trained in the use of radar systems will be quite familiar with a PPI display format, and thus quickly adapt to understanding the manner in which the motion picture images are arrayed and how they relate to the actual positions of bathers around the column.

[0171] The dead zone 1000 in the center of the PPI display format can be put to good use by displaying a pie chart. The pie chart may show, for example, how much time remains for each bather, if the showers incorporate a timeout feature. Alternatively the pie chart may show for how long each bather has been present, or how much hot water ration remains in an account of each enrolled bather. A line around the periphery of zone 1000 indicates which showers are actually running. A solid line indicates a warm or hot shower and a dotted line indicates a cold shower.

[0172] Enrolled bathers may be entitled to hot showers, whereas bathers who are not enrolled may receive cold-only showers.

[0173] The lack of enrollment of the bather in motion picture image 1099M4 is denoted as a dashed line around the periphery of the zone 1000.

[0174] In this display format, a technician or official can quickly verify proper functioning of the unit. Thousands of units around the world may be monitored at a small number of remote locations, and a machine vision system can automatically detect problems and display any unusual activity for a human observer. The unified PPI display format with pie chart makes it very easy for the human observer to see all six bathers along with the machine's interpretation of their states in the pie chart, to confirm that the machine vision system is operating correctly.

[0175]FIG. 11A shows an alternate embodiment of the sensor operated column shower in which the sensor optics 1110 is continuous around the periphery of the column, being comprised of a complete viewing window all the way around rather than behind drilled holes. Alternatively, the entire column of the shower column may be made of smoked polycarbonate to hide the plumbing but allow the sensors to see out.

[0176]FIG. 11B shows a closeup view of an N position mirror 1110M made of N segments that are substantially more than 360/N degrees in angle, so that they will raise up and be angled up. A camera sensor 1101 looks down on the N position mirror, so that it can see each of the N stations as a detection zone, where processor 1050 detects which shower stations are in use and actuates the appropriate shower head.

[0177]FIG. 12 shows a multiuser dome shower in which optics 1210 is comprised of a hemispherical dome of the kind typically used for ceiling mounted video surveillance applications. The dome is fitted with showerheads as well as a light source 1299, so that it becomes a smart light fixture as well as a smart shower. The dome of optics 1210 may be of dark smoked acrylic, or it may be chrome plated, or aluminized, or copper plated or gold plated acrylic or polycarbonate. Preferably it is metallized so that it reflects most of lamp 1299 up to the ceiling to produce a nice soft indirect light, while at the same time concealing the apparatus inside. The dome watches from above, and monitors the location, orientation, and arrangement of users below, and sprays them with an optimal spray pattern to conserve water. The device provides shower services and lighting services in response to user needs.

[0178]FIG. 13 shows a multiuser row shower in which shower heads 1300H are borne by a smoked polycarbonate pipe comprising optics 210 that also houses camera sensors 202 for detecting users of the shower and automating the process of controlling the water flow and temperature. The shower pipe is suspended from the ceiling 260 by way of wires 261, 262, 263, and 264.

[0179] Other embodiments of smart piping may also be used. Smart pipes are made of smoked acrylic, or smoked polycarbonate, and carry both water, and electricity. The electricity provides power for elements in the smart pipe, as well as carries information along the pipe. Alternatively, fiber optic communications may be used in the smart pipe, to carry the data.

[0180] Smart pipes may be mixed with regular PVC plumbing, so that portions of the pipe can “see” users of the plumbing fixtures and respond to their needs.

[0181] Cameras such as infrared video motion detection sensors in the pipes can view users and respond back to a central building intelligence system to provide users with services such as hot showers, as well as lighting, air conditioning, and safety by way of remote monitoring for security.

[0182] Additionally, users will not be able to easily see the sensors, nor will users know where, along the pipes, the sensors are located. Therefore vandalism of the sensory apparatus is unlikely.

[0183] Showers, sinks, urinals, toilets, bath tubs, and other bathroom fixtures connected by way of exposed piping will therefore benefit from this embodiment of the invention.

[0184] Intelligent piping may also be used for fire sprinkler systems, or for emergency mass decontamination. For example, smart pipes on the ceiling of any building, or even an outdoor overhang, can be quickly turned into mass decon showers by having a tarp drop down to form a separation between men and women, so that there are visually separated areas for setting up two parallel decon lines.

[0185]FIG. 14 shows an outdoor system built on a rubberized cement ground surface 1400 using smart pipes 1401 as well as various sensors and intelligent controls.

[0186] An outdoor decon shower facility may be designed as a waterpark, spray park, or recreational sprinkler system or waterplay area so that it can have another usage when it is not being used for emergency decon use. In this way, the facility will continue to be maintained, and its existence, space usage, maintenance costs, etc., can be justified without calling excessive attention to its real purpose of emergency preparedness. Moreover, the proliferation of such facilities will help to accustom the population to their presence, so that there would be less resistance of people to being required to use them during a time of emergency decon.

[0187] In addition to the smart pipes 1401 which contain nozzles, valves, valve controls, wiring, and sensors, there may be additional sensors overlooking the park such as sensor 1420. These various sensors are connected to an image processor 1430 for recognizing motion in various areas of the park.

[0188] A subject 1410 is detected by one or more camera sensors 1420 and the location of the user is determined in processor 1430. From this location information probabilistic weighing coefficients are calculated for each of the spray heads in the park. Spray heads 1401H having a high degree of probability of getting a large amount of water on subject 1410 are activated fully. Spray heads 1410M having a mid level probability of getting water on subject 1410 are readied, but not necessarily fully engaged. Spray heads 1410L having a low probability of getting large amounts of water on subject 1410 are set to very low or zero output.

[0189] Intelligent spray heads may also track subject 1410 based on image data from sensors 1420.

[0190]FIG. 15 shows a timing diagram suitable for the spray park of FIG. 14 or for other bathroom fixtures such as sensor operated showers, sensor operated faucets, or the like, in which a feedback preventer is required.

[0191] A feedback preventer is required whenever motion induced by the spray would trigger the sensor. Toilets and urinals do not require such a feedback preventer. Showers and faucets however, can benefit from the feedback preventer system shown in FIG. 15 by way of a timing diagram.

[0192] Plot MOTION in FIG. 15 shows, abstractly, the degree of motion. Without limiting the scope of the invention, plot MOTION could also depict a degree of occupancy, or a degree of closeness to a plumbing fixture, or other similar quantity.

[0193] When the degree of motion or closeness or occupancy or a combination of these exceeds a certain threshold THRESH, then a valve is switched on to deliver water spray. The valve has two states, an on state ON, and an off state OFF. These states are shown in plot VALVE, where it is seen that the valve switches to the state ON, once motion MOTION exceeds threshold THRESH.

[0194] The spraying of water might itself keep the motion sensor on even after the subject 1410 has left the area. Therefore, to avoid this feedback problem, the sensitivity, denoted in plot SENSITIVITY, is reduced as soon as the valve is switched on. Reduction of sensitivity is accomplished by simply raising the threshold THRESH required to reactivate the water spray valve.

[0195] However, a certain time period, called the open time, to, is provided. During this time, the valve will stay open regardless of the amount of motion indicated in plot MOTION.

[0196] After this timeout period, e.g. after open time, to, the valve will close if the motion is below the much higher threshold corresponding to the reduced sensitivity. After the valve is closed, there is a certain time period, called the demistifying time, td for the mist in the air to clear. Once the mist has cleared, e.g. after time td, the sensitivity of the motion detector can be increased. This increase may be gradual, if desired, to match the degree of mistiness in the air, as indicated in plot SENSITIVITY with the ramp up during time td.

[0197] In some embodiments the sensitivity is binary, such that the sensitivity is zero during time to. In such an embodiment the increased threshold is infinity. Also, multiple spray heads are typical.

[0198] In some binary embodiments (e.g. for mass decon, spray parks, waterplay, etc.) there are dozens of spray heads and various persons using them.

[0199] Thus the system first watches the space and if it sees any activity, it turns on the showers in the vicinity of the activity for a short time, to. It then ignores motion during a time interval of to+td. After that time, it becomes ready for another blast of water.

[0200] Additionally, mistifiation zones are calculated, so that the system knows what zones to mask out for each possible combination of spray heads being turned on. Thus it can still remain sensitive to motion in one area of the facilitly while another is activated.

[0201] In a large shower room, for example, leading from a men's locker room to a pool, men are sprayed with water as they step in front of a shower station and the water stays on for 30 seconds. After this amount of time the water shuts off and the system becomes sensitive to motion again. A person standing at a station for a long time will simply receive a series of 30 second bursts of water interrupted by short (e.g. a few seconds) system viewing intervals.

[0202] This embodiment can also be used in jacuzzis and whirlpools where the jets are shut down on time intervals to allow for system viewing. This feature is useful for detection of drowning, as well as operation of the fixture automatically.

[0203] In other embodiments where shower spray clears rapidly the system may speed up to a pulsating jet in which the pulses of water are interleaved with viewing intervals.

[0204] With far infrared cameras the viewing intervals may be reduced and the sensitivity during time to may be increased owing to the haze penetrating ability of the far infrared cameras.

[0205] In all aspects of the present invention, references to “camera” mean any device or collection of devices capable of simultaneously determining a quantity of light arriving from a plurality of directions and or at a plurality of locations, or determining some other attribute of light arriving from a plurality of directions and or at a plurality of locations.

[0206] References to “processor”, or “computer” shall include sequential instruction, parallel instruction, and special purpose architectures such as digital signal processing hardware, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), programmable logic devices, as well as analog signal processing devices.

[0207] From the foregoing description, it will thus be evident that the present invention provides a design for an intelligent bathroom, or bath environment equipped with intelligent fixtures and intelligent fixture control system. As various changes can be made in the above embodiments and operating methods without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings should be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

[0208] Variations or modifications to the design and construction of this invention, within the scope of the invention, may occur to those skilled in the art upon reviewing the disclosure herein. Such variations or modifications, if within the spirit of this invention, are intended to be encompassed within the scope of any claims to patent protection issuing upon this invention.

[0209] The embodiments of the invention in which I claim an exclusive property or privilege are defined as follows:

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Classifications
U.S. Classification4/300
International ClassificationH04L9/14, G08B25/00, G06T1/00, G06T7/00, G06K9/00, G08B29/00, G03B1/00, H04B3/00, H04Q9/00, G08B23/00, G08B19/00, G06K19/00, G06K9/20, H04L9/32, G08B13/00, H04B1/00, G05B23/02, G08B21/00, G06K9/36, G06F7/04, G05B19/00, G03B13/02, E03D3/00, G08C19/00, G05B23/00, G06F7/00, H04Q1/00
Cooperative ClassificationE03C1/057, E03D5/105
European ClassificationE03C1/05D2, E03D5/10B