I have a Philips SoniCare toothbrush. One of the features is a little yellow light that comes on to tell me that the head needs to be changed. The first time the light came on, I wondered how I would reset it once I got a new toothbrush head. I even googled it to find out.
Turns out I needn’t have bothered. Once I changed the head the light went off. This didn’t happen when I just removed the old head and put it back on. The toothbrush heads have a unique identity that the toothbrush body recognizes. This identity is not only used to signal head replacement, but also to put the toothbrush into different modes based on the type of head installed.
Philips calls this BrushSync
, but it’s just RFID technology. Each head has an RFID device embedded in it and the toothbrush body reads the data off the head and adjusts its internal state in the appropriate way.
I like this RFID use case because it’s got clear benefits for both Philips and their customers. Philips sells more toothbrush heads—so the internet of things (IoT) use case is clearly aligned with business goals. Customers get reminders to replace their head and don’t have to stand on one foot with their tongue out to reset the reminder—it’s simple.
There aren’t many privacy concerns at present. But as more and more products include RFID chips, you could imagine scanners on garbage trucks that correlate what gets used and thrown out with an address. I guess we need garbage cans that can disable RFID chips when they’re thrown away.
Some might argue with my characterization of this as an IoT use case since the head isn’t technically connected to the internet. But it is connected to the thing that matters most, the toothbrush body. And I think it’s ultimately about the connection, not distance or specific technology.
Regardless on your feelings about that, there’s no doubt this is an identity use case where unique identifiers on individual products are good for business and customers alike. This speaks to the breadth of identity and its importance in areas beyond associating identifiers with people. I’ve noticed an uptick in discussions at IIW
about identity for things and the impact that can have. The next IIW is Oct 12-14—online—join us if you’re interested.