1.3.2020 3:42 PM

Tech

Kohler mistakenly thinks we want a smart bathroom

Could we get a little privacy, please?

Next week CES 2020 gets underway, and you can bet that’s going to mean more smart products that needn’t be smart. Kitchen and bathroom supply company Kohler is getting a headstart with its new smart home kit, including an Amazon Alexa-packing showerhead and version 2.0 of its Numi “Intelligent Toilet” it originally unveiled at last year’s show. Neither of which will be coming anywhere near our homes, let alone our bathrooms/naked bodies.

In Kohler’s defense, it’s also rolling out an updated selection of smart shower controls which, while as bourgeois as they are unnecessary, at least aren’t obvious privacy tramplers. Then there’s a selection of less headline-grabbing gear that measures water consumption and could actually be useful for helping us come to terms with how much water we all use on a daily basis –– something that would make all but the most wanton among us blush.

Smart shower? No thanks –– Do we understand the appeal of singing in the shower? Sure. Do we get why it might be useful to be able to skip tracks when we’ve got conditioner in and soapy hands? We guess so. But do we want a microphone-packing digital spy in one of the few private spaces left to us in the age of voluntary, near-persistent surveillance? Heck, no. Which nixes Kohler’s Moxie showerhead for us. (Also, another device that needs batteries replaced? No thanks.)

It’s those very same surveillance worries –– along with the inevitably enormous price tag –– that make the Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet an, umm, hard pass for us. The features list is impressive: water efficiency controls, built-in Japanese-style bidet (or as we like to call it, the old washer-dryer combo), a heated seat, built-in speakers and –– our favorite –– customizable multi-colored ambient lighting. But then there’s the final, terrifying inclusion: Alexa.

If we wanted someone digitally sharing in the triumphs (and/or terrors) of our ablutions… we’d be characters in Broad City. But we aren’t. So we don’t.

Smarter water usage? Yes please –– Far more pedestrian and far more sensible are Kohler’s new smart water purification system, Setra touchless kitchen faucet, other smart kitchen wares, and various DTV smart bath and shower systems. Not because some of them connect to smart assistants, but because they monitor water consumption. That’s a smart use of smart tech. As for the rest of it? We’re going to flush it.