The internet of stupid things.

October 20, 2015 at 3:30 pm 2 comments

I foolishly joked about the existence of the most useless IoT device, a connected toothbrush.

I was at a telephony conference (Astricon 15) where I was speaking on how to enrich realtime communications by using some of the new HTML5 APIs (see slides ). We laughed about an absurd demo for the brush, but I felt that at $150 it was too expensive for a joke. At which point my fellow Asterisk developers held a whip-around and crowd-funded the purchase of the damn thing from the local Walgreens. So I was duty bound to build the app and show it at Truphone’s dangerous demos 2 days later.

Here is a (Facebook) video of the outcome . (Thanks to Diggz for capturing the moment – I think)
Yep folks, if you call me when I’m brushing my teeth, you’ll get a customised voicemail telling you how much more brushing I still have to do(*).
For the tech minded, I used a tessel 1 with the Bluetooth LE module to scan for the brush’s address and status. Then it posted the status (over http) to a redis database in the cloud. Incoming calls were answered by Tropo which ran a script that retrieved the status from redis, then either forwarded the call to my cell, or played the customised message. To get the Brush’s address I ran the official Oral-B app on an Android tablet and watched the output from ‘adb logcat’ .

In fact the escapade was very instructive. For a start it gave me an excuse to play with the Tessel and the Bluetooth LE module, which I hadn’t got around to before. The second thing is that it set me thinking about the utility of connected devices.

The official Oral-B app is supposed to be run on your bluetooth 4.0 enabled smartphone (my Nexus is too old it seems), but that just seems clumsy, you have to take the phone into the bathroom with you, start the app and keep it close to the brush while you clean. This seems to defeat the sole real purpose of the device, i.e. reminding the forgetful if they have brushed their teeth yet today.

Surely what you really want is a more passive sensor and an Siri-like interface ‘House, have I cleaned my teeth already?’ or ‘House, has little Johnny cleaned his teeth tonight?’ . It seems tome the place for this is a home-hub, but not one that exports all my data to some silo in Utah.

(*) No – not really – I handed the device to the highest donor as soon as possible, but I did win a prize!

Entry filed under: Iot, startup. Tags: , , .

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