LOVELAND, Colo. - Somewhere, a divorce lawyer and a marriage therapist are crying in their beers. Their careers might go down the tubes thanks to a Loveland man's invention that will resolve a spat as old as indoor plumbing.
Daniel Shannon created a self-closing, self-contained toilet seat, the Smart Lid, which is powered by kinetic energy from lifting the lid, requires no electricity and can be installed like any standard toilet seat.
"Most of my life, I've had women complaining about leaving the toilet seat up," Shannon said, describing his motivation behind the invention.
Relieving squabbles between the sexes isn't his only goal. The Smart Lid will also keep toddlers from playing with the toilet or pets from making it into a makeshift water bowl. It will also prevent people from accidentally dropping anything into the bowl.
Shannon began pursuing the Smart Lid, marketed as "The World's Most Intelligent Toilet Seat," after attending a Fourth of July party at the house of a friend who was into feng shui.
"She was mad someone left the toilet seat up," Shannon said.
In feng shui, the Chinese practice of decorating to create harmony in an environment, toilet seats should be kept down, because it creates positive energy flow and because water represents money, which can be drained away if given the path.
The Smart Lid includes a liquid reservoir, made of antibacterial antifreeze, within the upper portion of the lid. When the lid is in the vertical position, water from the reservoir trickles into an "activation bucket" in the lower portion of the seat. When enough water has transferred to the bottom, it causes the bucket to pivot, which activates a release mechanism that allows the lid to move to an off-center position, allowing it to fall closed.
The key to the seat is the release trigger, which Shannon named a radial motion amplifier and has a patent pending. It is a smaller trigger that can be activated by the water, which then hits the larger hinge. The water pressure alone wasn't enough to activate the large hinge. Shannon said he brainstormed the idea during a session of "4 a.m. engineering."
The Smart Lid has an adjustable time release and slowly closes in two to five minutes. The lid weighs only about 2 pounds, no more than a wooden lid, according to Shannon.
There are other self-closing toilet seats on the market, but they require the installation of another float, which involves plumbing skills, or they take electricity, which can be dangerous near the toilet. Shannon said the Smart Lid is the only self-contained seat and is affordable at $39.
When he introduces his product, "men laugh and women applaud," he said.
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After creating two prototypes, which worked but were "not pretty," Shannon traveled to Xiamen, China, where he worked with engineers and manufacturers to create his current prototype. He stayed in China from August of last year to October.
Shannon's next step is finding investors so he can put it on the market. For this, he enlisted Bill Miller of Colorado Springs, who manages Dust Off Your Dreams.
The two met at a meeting of the Da Vinci Institute, a nonprofit "futuristic think tank" which began in Longmont, where Shannon was introducing the Smart Lid.
"I was the only one to make him laugh all day," Shannon said.
Miller instantly was drawn to Shannon's creation and is now the director of marketing, working to secure investors.
"(The Smart Lid) solved a big problem," Miller said. "I always evaluate the size and value of an idea relative to the problem it solves. I like nothing better in my life than playing with ideas."
Shannon has been inventing products throughout his life. When he was young, he tore things apart to find out how they worked.
"It drove my mom crazy because I couldn't always get things back together when I was a kid," he said.
His first patented invention was a transmission fluid exchanger that incorporated a vacuum pump. He said he's also invented the world's fastest machine gun, but he's not sure he wants to be associated with that invention.
Instead, he'll stick to the Smart Lid, which will free men from the blame of leaving the seat up.
"It's been one of those classic arguments," Miller said. "Cultural anthropologists will wonder where that problem went after this (product) comes to the market."