Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why does my tooth brush have a wireless network?

My toothbrush (Braun Oral-B 5000) has been displaying a nagging "Replace brush head" message recently. I initially though nothing of it. Almost all consumer electronics will nag you when some consumable needs changing.

But then I thought: how does it know? It's not like the head is wired in. It's deliberately detachable for cleaning. There are no electrical contacts. Could it be there is a RFID chip in the head and a RFID reader in the tooth brush?

Sure enough the Braun Oral-B 5000 features a RFID reader and RFID chips in the heads – a toothbrush area wireless network!

Out of curiosity I wrapped about 1 meter of magnet wire (about 30 turns) around the head and connected it to an oscilloscope. There is a strong excitation signal at about 13MHz for about a second after the brush is powered up.

A quick google of  "13MHz RFID" does reveal that 13.56MHz is popular RFID frequency. Unfortunately decoding this signal seems involved. There is an open hardware sniffer project here: However I don't really have the time or incentive to hack my toothbrush right now.

An oscilloscope trace from the coil wrapped around the toothbrush head. A strong signal of about 75ns period is observed for about 1 second after the brush is switched on.


Jenna said...
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Marc said...

You didn't happen to work out what protocol the toothbrush used to talk to the "Smart Guide" by any chance?