The Quantified Self movement--where people collect as much data as possible about their lives (and bodies) and analyze it--is no longer the niche hobby that it was just a few years ago. Even if you don’t realize it, you might be involved. Do you use a calorie-counting app? That’s self-tracking. An iPhone-connected blood pressure monitor? Quantified self. As if we needed any more proof that self-tracking is quickly moving into the mainstream, there is the Beam Toothbrush--a Bluetooth-connected toothbrush that makes sure you spend enough time brushing your teeth, tracking your results with a connected smartphone app. And let’s face it: Most people could use the help.
I caught up with Beam CEO Alex Frommeyer at the Stanford Medicine X conference, where he was showing off a prototype of the toothbrush. It doesn’t look out of the ordinary--if anything, it resembles an electric toothbrush (it isn’t electric, though, but adding an electric component isn’t out of the question in the future).
"The Beam toothbrush is the first app-connected toothbrush," he explains. "Nothing about how you brush your teeth changes at all, but what we can do while you’re brushing your teeth does change."
More specifically: A sensor in the toothbrush reacts to the body’s bioelectricity when it’s placed in the mouth, causing the brush to start keeping track of brushing behavior. The data is automatically pushed to the user’s Beam iPhone or Android app, where they can simply observe their brushing habits or set longer-term "brushing goals." A profile screen in the app allows users to push the data to their dentists or care providers for treatment planning (how many dentists would appreciate this level of information is debatable).
It’s not just doctors that may be interested in the data. Frommeyer notes that he’s seen a lot of interest from parents who want their children to use the brush. It is, after all, an easy enough way to make sure kids are brushing their teeth for long enough without hovering over them.
There’s just one catch: The current version of the brush is basically a sensor-triggered timer, ensuring that users brush their teeth for at least two minutes. But it can’t track the quality of brushing, which is just as important. The brush can, however, tell you when its head needs to be replaced--something that many people might otherwise delay doing.
The Beam toothbrush will be available in November for $50. "This is a manual toothbrush. There could be an electric toothbrush in the future. Flossing is just as big of a compliance problem, so there’s a lot to be quantified and there are multiple streams of data there. We want to be a leader in the hardware space of digital health," says Frommeyer.