While looking for a topic to write about today I stumbled upon Engadget’s review of the new Oral-B smart toothbrush. The bottom line was that the data is deep yet useless and that most of the app’s functions (such as timing the length of a brush) were already available on other, cheaper electric toothbrushes (I have a simple model which vibrates to let me know I need to start brushing another quadrant.) The Pro-5000 sells for $125 on Amazon. That’s pretty steep for a toothbrush. It’s not like you can flaunt it as a status symbol anywhere but your own bathroom.
I wholeheartedly agree with Engadget’s parting words: “With the SmartSeries range, it feels like Oral-B scrambled to make something it can attach a bunch of buzzwords to without considering the value to consumers.”
It’s that “value to consumers” bit that needs to be explored when looking at the benefits of smart devices.
Take, for example, sleep-trackers. Mostly, and I’ve tried two, they do a great job at telling me if I’ve had a good night’s sleep, which usually means if my data shows several hours of uninterrupted deep sleep. This is nice, but I already know if I have had a good night’s sleep without syncing my tracker with its app; I know it by the cups of coffee I need to consume in the morning to start functioning. My current tracker, Misfit Flash, doesn’t do anything beyond tracking my sleep which becomes boring after a few nights. The iOS version of my tracker’s app does have a useful function beyond showing sleep data. It can use the tracking data to find the time when sleep is lightest which is also close to a set alarm. Theoretically, once I get this feature I will wake up more refreshed. Until then, after almost 6 weeks of use, I’m tired of tracking my sleep data.
Fitness trackers are almost in the same category of useless data tracking. Most of them track steps and some are smart to track cycling, swimming, running and other sports. Maybe some serious athletes find that tracking their every move is useful but I’m not so sure it provides value for the average user. Some users have claimed that they are more motivated to reach a goal they have set, such as one hour of walking per day or a certain number of steps, but without additional motivation, or some friendly social competition, data collection for the sake of data collection becomes tiring.
So before we have a smart hairbrush or a smart blender, let’s make sure they really provide some sort of value beyond just tracking data. Otherwise, store shelves and junkyards will become full of unwanted, unneeded “smart” devices.