/ 29 November 2007

SMS ‘toilet’ to find relief

A new service promises Londoners they’ll never have to spend much time looking for the loo.

Westminster city council, which covers London’s bustling Oxford Street, the West End and the Houses of Parliament, on Thursday launched ”SatLav” — a toilet-finding service for cellphone users.

Harried theatre-goers, distressed shoppers and hard-pressed bar patrons in London’s West End can now SMS the word ”toilet” — and receive an SMS back giving the address of the nearest public facility.

The system, which covers 40 public toilets, triangulates a user’s position by measuring the strength of the phone signal. The texts cost 25 pence, while most of Westminster’s toilets are free.

The council expressed hope that the service would help fight the scourge of street urination, which it said is responsible for dumping an estimated 45 000 litres of urine in Westminster’s alleyways each year.

Similar offerings exist elsewhere, such as the mobile toilet-search service offered by Vindigo in many United States cities, but SatLav is being touted as the first SMS-based toilet finder in Britain.

”It’s the first fully managed service that we’re aware of,” British Toilet Association director Richard Chisnell said, praising the council for its work in the field of public convenience.

”Thank heavens for Westminster’s public toilets,” he said. — Sapa-AP