UK scientists Cambridge Consultants have invented a wearable device that monitors your sun exposure and suggests the best amount of exposure for your skintone in order to stay healthy.
Too much sun can be damaging for the body as it can destruct skin cells, cause premature aging and cause skin cancer through UVA and UVB radiation. However, the sun can also be beneficial to health and is necessary for the human body to function properly. Vitamin D is created by the body in response to exposure to sunlight, this essential vitamin helps to increase calcium absorption and healthy bone formation. A deficiency in this vitamin has been linked to bone problems, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment and even cancer. The bright light from the sun is also known to help improve symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a temporary low mood disorder that happens during the dark winter months.
Because sunlight is both beneficial and harmful, it’s important to monitor exactly how much sunshine your skin is getting and to make sure it is adequately protected. The makers of the Solitair hope that the device will enable people to take advantage of year-round sun exposure while limiting confusion over helpful and harmful amounts of sunlight.
The wearable device is tiny and can be worn on a tie clip, hair clip or brooch. The device connects to a smartphone app which gives real time information on the wearer’s sun exposure. The wearer begins by taking a skintone pigment measurement using the camera on their phone which is then analysed by the app and combined with the user’s daily schedule, location and weather forecast. The app can then suggest the best times to be out in the sun with and without sunscreen that has different sun protection factor (SPF) levels. The Solitair device connects to the app via Bluetooth and monitors actual levels of sun exposure in order to provide alerts to the user to suggest when they are about to exceed their maximum recommended levels of sun and are at risk of skin damage.
The device is currently the size of a small coin and at $5 to make, the Solitair will be cheap to buy, meaning that the device will be convenient and affordable for most. There are plans to try to make the device even smaller before it hits the market and to update the software so that it can take into account a user’s time in the shade as well as the sun.
While other sun exposure gadgets exist, Solitair’s smartphone app is particularly good at analysing images and measuring colours. This enables the app to accurately understand an individual’s skintone and provide personalised and up to date recommendations for each user. Cambridge Consultants stress that the device isn’t a substitute for sunscreen, but will take into account the SPF level that you plan to use on a particular day in order to further tailor its sun-safe suggestions.
Rivals to the Solitair either have a less sophisticated app system or are much more expensive than this gadget is likely to be- the Netatmo June is a silicone bracelet and photovoltaic gem that costs $129 and connects to an app that gives you sun recommendations to avoid premature aging. The SunFriend band costs $49 but does not connect to an app or give personalised suggestions, short of monitoring your recent UVA and UVB exposure. The easiest to use but least sophisticated of all sun exposure monitors are the SunSignals sensors which are available for $1.99 for a pack of 6 and are made predominantly for children. A small sticky patch is applied to the skin and the colour of the patch changes as the skin is exposed to higher levels of UVA and UVB radiation, meaning less guess work about skin protection as the patch turns dark red at the time when the skin is likely to burn.
The Solitair wearable sun exposure monitor, with its skin analysis capabilities and radiation prediction algorithms, could change the way we approach sun exposure forever. Cambridge consultants are looking for partners to launch the Solitair commercially and it may not be long before we are all wearing sun monitor clips or pins as part of our everyday lives.