Innovation Watch

Firefly

Wireless Video Otoscope

Firefly has produced a video otoscope that wirelessly connects to a PC via a USB dongle.  The video source from this product shows up on a computer as a USB webcam or similar video source, allowing use of an otoscope without the encumbrance of wires.  TTAC had previous experience with their USB otoscope and dermascope and wanted to see how the innovation of wireless connections might be used.

The camera is small and of the same form that has become typical of “digital microscope”-style otoscopes.  The Wireless Otoscope contains built-in batteries, a plastic clip for attaching the device to a pocket and four LEDs surrounding a small hole that shields the camera sensor from excessive light.  There are a few controls on the body of the device, including a power button, shutter control, LED brightness dial, wireless channel selector (up to four wireless channels can be used between the camera and the wireless USB receiver), and focus dial.

The otoscope (DE 550/551) wirelessly connects to the USB receiver, which in turn can be connected to either the Firefly software for image framing, capture, and review, or else can be selected as a video source in most videoconferencing software applications or store-and-forward systems that support generic USB video inputs.

The image quality was typical of otoscopes of this category, meaning that the resolution was likely adequate for most purposes (720x480 pixels) but the narrow field of view makes it difficult to frame the entire tympanic membrane in a single image.  Depending on the imaging goals of the clinician it may be beneficial to capture multiple images to get the wider view of the ear canal from further back and sections of the tympanic membrane when the device fully inserted into the ear.  As with other otoscopes that have this form factor, the speculum may shift slightly during use unless it is firmly seated in place.

One issue that prospective users should be aware of—and test in their own facilities—is that the wireless connection sometimes results in irregularities in the color and detail of the image. These aberrations are very clearly seen in use, meaning that a user can likely be trained to identify when the connection is not adequate and not capture images when the quality is degraded.

The Firefly 550 Wireless Otoscope is another interesting and promising entry into the growing world of wireless video devices that can be used for telehealth applications.  While it does still require a USB connection for the wireless receiver, it is an innovative step in wireless imaging for telehealth.

Product Specifications:

  • Size: 13cm x 3.6cm x 4cm
  • Resolution: 720 x 480 pixels, 30 FPS for video
  • File Formats: BMP, JPG, AVI
  • Connections: USB for Wireless Connector / Dongle