Home / Blog / Checking your ears with your smartphone

Checking your ears with your smartphone

You can use your smartphone with a wifi extension to check your ear canal and remove wax with a specially designed tool. Image credit: SPADE – Axel Glade

Just few days ago I listed a number of different use for a smartphone and I stated that it was by no means a comprehensive one. Today I stumbled on SPADE, a new product by Axel Glade (not the first in this area by all means) that has been designed to help you check the status of your ears canals and to remove the wax.

The system is based on a thin aluminum stick with a soft tip embedding a 3Mpixel video camera. Using wifi it relays the images to your smartphone (with a special app that comes with the product). You can look at your ear canal and do any required operation to get rid of the wax in a safe and controlled way.

What impressed me is that you can have this system for less than 100$ (there are other models, different brands, for less than 50$). If you look at the technology it embeds a video camera, LEDs to illuminate the canal area, wifi communications plus a variety of tools to manage different needs. In addition you get the app for your smartphone. I suspect that in the BOM (Bill Of Materials, the sum of the cost of each component) most part is for the hard stuff, the aluminum stick, the recharging station, the 21 tips provided and very little for the sophisticated technology (the camera sensor, the communication chip, the app…). A 3Mpixel camera sensor goes for under 3$, in spite of being a tremendously complex chip.

There are several “gadgets” you can use as a scope attached (wirelessly or with a wire) to your smartphone and their price can be as low as 20$. I actually got one several years ago to inspect plumbing and hidden places and they work pretty well. These ear canals scope, however, are the first targeting the mass market for a health related application (although they are not approved/need to be approved by the FDA) and increase the number of devices paired to a smartphone to support proactive healthcare, something that is becoming a trend and slowly change the way we look at healthcare. In this decade we are going to see our home becoming more and more the first station for medical exams and proactive healthcare and the pandemic has just accelerated this trend.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.