November 12, 2014 by Paula Petcu
Got a newsletter email a few days ago, the kind that I usually ignore, but this one (unexpectedly) got my attention. Seems that there is an electric toothbrush with Bluetooth out there on the market!
The idea is that you can connect the toothbrush with your smartphone through Bluetooth and record how many times and for how long you’ve brushed your teeth, amongst other functionalities. There is a free app to download from both the App Store and Google Play. Amongst other functionalities, there is a timer for how long to brush, a smiley face if you brush for at least the 2 recommended minutes, and entertainment in form of weather updates, news, and photos.
The most interesting thing for me though is the data.
I tried the app without the bluetooth toothbrush. I had a (now boring) toothbrush from the same producer anyway, and the app was indicating that it should be able to identify whether you are brushing your teeth based on the sound made by the toothbrush (which is supposed to be a fallback in functionality in case the bluetooth connection is off or interrupted). If you allow the app to access your phone’s microphone, then indeed it works. Most of the time, that is. Since the app is supposed to automatically identify when you’ve paused or stopped brushing, if the brush is not close enough to the mic, the app is putting your brushing session on pause, which is annoying as you will end up brushing more that the app records. That is not exactly bad... but the data will not reflect reality.
I bought the bluetooth toothbrush (Oral-B’s SmartSeries). The main reason was to be able to track my brushing sessions without the above-mentioned pauses, as well as being able to track without opening the app each time. The toothbrush handle is said to be able to store 20 sessions that can then be synced with the app at a later time. I tested that I can sync a previous evening’s brushing session the morning after, and the procedure was pretty straight-forward. I could probably do the sync only once or twice per week if the toothbrush can indeed store up to 20 sessions. Being able to brush without bringing the phone with me is important -- while the app does indeed provide some entertainment while brushing, it is not extremely comfortable to have the toothbrush in one hand and the phone in the other, for two minutes. Also, at the moment of writing, the app lacks the possibility of configuring the sources of entertainment - I might use the app more while I’m brushing if I could configure for example what category of news I’d like to read.
The app shows a nice dashboard with bar charts representing the duration of the brushing sessions over a day, week and month. If using the Bluetooth-enabled brush, additional data about the pressure applied while brushing will also be available.
Unfortunately I am not aware at the time of writing of a supported method to export the data. Sharing the data on social media or to other health services doesn’t seem to be possible either. There is no account that you create when using the app. I’ve seen other apps that did not require creating an account and in that situation the export functionality was implemented by sending an export file by email. I can only hope that the producer is already working on making the data available outside the app!
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