The Toilet Reservation System is finally online

My office, like a lot of offices, has always suffered from a toilet-related problem.

You walk all the way to the toilets, only to find that the toilets are already busy.

You then waste time walking back to your cubicle, where more uncomfortable minutes pass, during which you are barely productive. Finally, you return to the toilets, only to find that they are still busy!

This 'bog-polling' can continue for half a day, putting you behind on your schedules and impacting your bowel.

All this has come to an end now that we have finally turned on Version 2.0 of the intranet-Based Toilet Reservation System (TRS).

The process is as simple as it is brilliant.

  1. You check on the intranet if a toilet is currently available.
  2. If it is, you reserve it.
  3. The door to your reserved toilet then locks, and the "reserved" sign lights up. The door will not unlock for anyone but *you* and your electronic security tag.
  4. If no toilet is available, then you can inform the TRS to email you, SMS you, or page you, when one does become available. (Paging doesn't yet work -- but should be online in a day or two!)
  5. If any toilet is reserved but not in use for more than one hour, then you are asked to go online and confirm that you still intend to keep the booking, otherwise it is released.
  6. You can now book ahead by up to six months and can even set a recurring booking for the same time each day.
  7. Before you start worrying: User identity is fully protected -- you can't see who is hogging a cubicle, or who has blocked off a period of time.

Of course, user-identities are still recorded in the back-end system (pun intended...), as they are used for management reports on user productivity. (Personally, I think the data could also be used for assessing mental fitness and for identifying health patterns in the work force. But that level of abstraction is still philosophical at this stage.)

We developed all of this just for our own department's purposes. (We're a government department -- in case you couldn't guess already ;-) ) But I'm wondering if other offices will want us to install a TRS for their benefit too. The equipment involved is little more than a few lights, some electronic locks and an intranet application. Potentially it could be opened up to the internet, of course, so you could book while en-route to the office.

In case you're wondering, version 1 of the TRS is system is still in place. It consists of little more than a blurry webcam above the urinals. It gives a fair indication of traffic levels while maintaining anonymity.

Well - i'm off to "download an attachment into the porcelain internet", if you catch my drift.



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