Web-connected toothbrush wows at CES

2014-01-06 07:26

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Las Vegas - Brush smarter. That's the message from the makers of what is billed as the world's first internet-connected toothbrush.

Unveiled on Sunday at a preview event for the Consumer Electronics Show, the device from French-based start-up Kolibree aims "to reinvent oral care", according to co-founder Loic Cessot.

"The technology in the industry has not evolved for years," Cessot said.

"The idea is not to brush stronger, but smarter."

The Kolibree toothbrush includes a sensor which detects how much tartar is being removed in a brushing. It also records brushing activity so users can maintain a consistent cleaning each time.

The device conveys the information wirelessly to a smartphone app - a particularly useful aid for parents who want to monitor the teeth cleaning efforts of small children, according to Cessot.

Fun

"When you use a normal toothbrush you never really know what you've cleaned. It might be 30%. The only person who really knows is the dentist."

But the app can tell users if they have missed hard-to-clean areas or are not getting a thorough brushing.

The app, which is open for developers to add on other programs, aims to increase motivation and make the experience more fun, said Cessot.

The self-funded start-up created by Cessot and former Microsoft and Google executive Thomas Serval plans to release the toothbrush worldwide in the third quarter, getting a boost from a crowd-sourcing effort.

Orders will be available initially through Kickstarter from $99 to $200, depending on the model and will include a free mobile app.

From drones and smart cars to remote-controlled door locks and eyewear, the annual CES event officially starting on Tuesday promises to showcase an "Internet of Things" with users at its heart.

"You will see two types of technology here," Shawn DuBravac, chief economist at the Consumer Electronics Association which puts on the international show, said on Sunday.

"You will see the technologically feasible and the ones that are commercially viable."

Prime showcase

Innovations on display but not prime for market will include bendable screens.

Potentially disruptive technology that is available includes 3D printers that let users print objects in a fashion similar to printing documents.

"It is still a very nascent market, but we are starting to see it grow," DuBravac said.

The CES stage is typically a prime showcase for gizmos that don't usually get a spotlight.

"You will see a lot about the internet of things; all the gadgets that are not a tablet, smartphone or personal computer but are attached to the Internet," said Forrester analyst Frank Gillett.

"Like your car telling you that you are speeding too much or door locks that you unlock with a smartphone. There are all kinds of gadgety things like that we will see."

A driver of the hot CES trend of wearable computers such as bracelets or pendants that track wearers' activities or health is proliferation of low-cost sensors.

Privacy

Sensors in cars help drivers park or enable cruise-control features to modify speed depending on traffic, while internet-linked thermostats in homes can sense when residents' smartphones are nearing and adjust temperatures to welcome them.

And door locks with wireless connectivity and sensors can open automatically for people arriving home, or be controlled remotely using smartphones.

As a result, protecting personal information gathered by sensors is "certainly on the radar for all manufacturers at CES", according to DuBravac.

"I almost wonder sometimes if privacy is an anomaly instead of the other way around," DuBravac said, noting that in small towns of days gone by everyone seemed to know everyone else's doings.

"If I can get a richer experience by sharing my data, that is a fair trade-off," he suggested.

The global market for technology hit a record high of $1.068 trillion in 2013 powered by uptake in smartphones and tablets, according to Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Association.

He forecast that figure would ebb slightly this year and level off at $1.055 trillion, noting that regions where demand for smartphones or tablets is hottest tend to be places where low prices are needed to penetrate markets.

"North America is no longer in the lead in terms of technology spending," Koenig said.

"The spending coming on line in Asia has sealed the deal in terms of leadership and America will have to settle for number two. Simply put, there is strength in numbers in China."

Amazingly, 43 cents of every dollar spent on consumer electronics this year was predicted to go on smartphones and tablets.

"We are now awaiting that next wave of innovation, and that is really what CES is all about," Koenig added.
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