Tooshlights: Pandemic Creates Flush of Orders From Airports for Smart Restroom Indicators

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Tooshlights SEA
Seattle-Tacoma International is one of the latest airports to pilot Tooshlights. Image: Harriet Baskas

Even before COVID-19, many airports were embracing touchless technology in restrooms, for faucets, paper towel and soap dispensers, and toilet flushing. Many airports were also installing smart systems to help monitor bathroom usage and improve cleaning and maintenance routines. Tooshlights helps airports monitor restrooms from an operational perspective, while also enabling social distancing.

The new normal raises the bar for keeping airport bathrooms clean. But there is also the issue of long restroom lines, which have gone from an annoyance to a health risk now that we must practice social distancing and avoid spending too much time in enclosed spaces.

That may be why more airports are installing and ordering Tooshlights, a smart restroom traffic management system that uses red and green overhead lights and smart latches to indicate if a restroom stall is occupied (red) or available (green).

“Some airports were thinking about using this before COVID, but didn’t have the budget,” said Tooshlights CEO Allen Klevens. “Now with COVID some of these airports are coming up with money to fund it because it’s needed.”

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) was the first airport in the country to do a Tooshlights test run back in 2018. Since then, travelers have encountered the helpful lights in some restrooms at airports including Boston Logan International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

At Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Tooshlights were part of the broad Smart Restroom program installed pre-COVID throughout the airport’s five terminals.

“Our main goal was to offer a safe, more efficient, touchless system for all restrooms,” said Ken Buchanan, executive vice-president of Customer Experience and Management at DFW. Now with COVID concerns in the mix, passengers can avoid even stepping into a crowded restroom by looking at the stall usage monitors outside the DFW restrooms.

Seattle-Tacoma International, one of the latest airports to pilot Tooshlights, is doing so as part of its airport-wide FlyHealth@SEA plan to ensure the health and safety of travelers.

“The smart restroom solution adds more privacy, improves physical distancing during the pandemic and prevents the need for passengers to push or touch stall doors to determine availability,” the airport said in a statement explaining the red/green restroom lights to passengers. The airport hopes to add Tooshlights to other restrooms as they are remodeled.

While extremely helpful to travelers who need to go while on the go, the Tooshlights smart latch does more than just turn a light over the stalls red or green or blue (for accessible stalls). “Tooshlights is part of the IoT [internet of things],” Klevens said. “Our user interface allows airports to understand which stalls are being used the most and average time spent in a stall and most importantly live data on how long someone has been in the stall.”

Klevens points out that if someone has been in a stall for say, longer than 20 minutes, they may be hurt or sick. “These alerts are also helpful in cases where an emergency has occurred and terminals have to be cleared,” Klevens explained. “First responders can use the UI or app to see if anyone is in the restroom prior to walking in.”

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