IoT Gets Personal: Are Smart Products Changing our Morning Routines?

I grew up watching “Jimmy Neutron,” a TV show about a 10-year genius who invented the coolest gadgets. The Bath Bot 3000 was my favorite device of them all.

What’s better than waking up and having a machine wash your face, brush your teeth, and comb your hair?

“Nothing” thought 8-year old me.

However as an adult, I own very few personal smart devices.

I like my smart thermostat because in the winter, it preheats my apartment before I come home. I also installed a smart light bulb in one room where the light switch stopped working. Otherwise, I haven’t found today’s devices compelling enough to justify the added costs, reliability issues, and security risks.

Recently I wondered how far away are we from the ideal of Jimmy Neutron’s Bath Both 3000? I researched the history of smart toothbrushes, hair brushes and facial cleansers to find out.

Your $10 Hair Brush Almost Got an Upgrade

For now, the smart hair brush is lost in the black hole of IoT devices announced at CES that never launched. L’Oreal revealed the Kérastase Hair Coach to much fanfare at CES 2017 noting these features in a press release:

● A microphone that listens to the sound of hair brushing to identify patterns, providing insights into manageability, frizziness, dryness, split ends and breakage.  
● 3-axis load cells that measure the force applied to the hair and the scalp when brushing. 
● An accelerometer and a gyroscope which help further analyze brushing patterns and count brush strokes, with haptic feedback signaling if brushing is too vigorous.
● Conductivity sensors to determine if the brush is being used on dry or wet hair in order to provide an accurate hair measurement.

Kerastase Hair Coach prototype and companion app.
Image courtesy of L’Oreal.

In short, the sensor-packed brush promised to be a giant leap from any other hair brushing technology in human history. The rumored retail price was $200 to $250, which sounds almost reasonable in a world with $500 hair dryers.

So what happened? I was unable to find any news on why the product launch stalled. It leaves the market wide open for other companies to launch their own smart brushes.

Does Your Toothbrush Have More Sensors Than You Have Teeth?

The smart toothbrush has many more developments than the smart hair brush.

In late 2014, Oral-B released the first Bluetooth 4.0-enabled toothbrush, the SmartSeries 7000. It comes with an app that grades you on your brushing abilities and entertains you with photos of lions in the Serengeti while you’re cleaning your teeth.

The price tag? $220.

Screenshots from the Oral-B SmartSeries 7000 companion app.
Image courtesy of Gizomodo.

In her review of the brush, Gizmodo writer, Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, made an important observation: while most of us may say we want to improve our dental hygiene, a significantly smaller number are dedicated enough to brush with an app every morning and night.

Kolibree, a smart toothbrush manufacturer that got its start on Kickstarter in 2014, led the next innovations in smart toothbrushes.

In 2017, the company won a CES Innovation Award for the first smart toothbrush with embedded artificial intelligence (AI). Kolibree’s founder, Thomas Serval, defined what AI means for his smart toothbrush, “Patented deep learning algorithms are embedded directly inside the toothbrush on a low-power processorRaw data from the sensors runs through the processor, enabling the system to learn your habits and refine accuracy the more it’s used.”

Kolibree ara toothbrush and companion app.
Image courtesy of Kolibree.

In addition to sporting artificial intelligence, Kolibree’s toothbrush was almost half as expensive as the first smart toothbrush at $129 and less bulky. Offline data storage meant you could keep your phone out of the bathroom if you preferred.

Today’s Smartest Toothbrush

In the five years since the first smart toothbrush launched, how close are we to Jimmy Nuetron’s Brush-o-Matic? We have a ways to go.

The closest we stand is the Phillips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9300 ($229.99), which leverages the most sensor technology of any smart toothbrush to date. Embedded pressure sensors and a RFID chip enable the smart toothbrush to:

  • Provide realtime feedback on brushing technique
  • Alert you when you have not reached 100% mouth coverage
  • Optimize the time between brush head changes by tracking the number of sessions, pressure applied, and brushing “style”
Phillips Sonicare DiamondClean Smart 9300 with accessories.
Image courtesy of Phillips Sonicare.

The next innovation I would love to see for the smart toothbrush is in form factor.

The beauty of Jimmy Neutron’s Brush-o-Matic was brushing your teeth hands-free. Understandably, that’s not the first use case for advanced robotics. However, by the time necessary robotic technology is accessible, smart toothbrush will have a treasure trove of data.

Analyzing data about people’s brushing habits will put everyone (who can afford it) on the path to perfect dental hygiene.

The Smart Facial Cleanser That Wasn’t

I currently wash my face with my hands, as far removed from an IoT device as you can get. It turns out, I have few options.

Luna fofo
Image courtesy of FOREO.

The FOREO fofo ($89), considered the world’s first smart facial cleanser just launched last year. It features two 24-karat gold plated conductivity sensors to assess skin hydration. Yes, that’s it.

The Swedish beauty company did announce plans for future products to include more sensor technology, like air quality and other measures of skin condition.

Between 2008 and 2018, the global skincare market grew 60% to $135B. Personal IoT skincare devices could provide the people already spending gobs of money on skincare products valuable feedback.

For anyone reading who is ready to take up this challenge, check out my other post on how to build smart products- the right way.

Tomorrow Holds Much Smarter Personal Products

IoT has yet to penetrate our morning routines. While personal IoT devices to help us perfect our hair, teeth and face would not be solving hard-hitting challenges, there’s a lot of evidence the market exists.

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