Staying safe in the sun


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The personal high-tech guide to safe sun exposure

How do you know how much sun exposure is right for you? Sunlight has a vital role to play in the body’s production of vitamin D – essential for healthy bones – and in preventing seasonal affective disorder. But the sun’s UV rays also have an ageing effect on the skin – and there is increasing concern about the rise in cases of skin cancer.

So how do you strike the right balance? How do you get the right amount of sun exposure for your particular skin type and lifestyle? To address these dilemmas, product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants has devised Solitair. It monitors your sun exposure and combines the information with your skin type and your schedule for the day to give real-time recommendations about when it’s time to cover up or move indoors. And all in a device that’s smaller than the average car key and has a bill of materials cost of around $5.

The Solitair concept uses Cambridge Consultants’ expertise in Bluetooth Smart connected devices and wearable technology, as well as miniaturised sensors and smartphone imaging – combined with its extensive knowledge of the consumer market. It consists of a smartphone app linked to a small sensing device that could be clipped to a bag or worn as a brooch or hairclip.

All the user has to do is take an image of their skin with their smartphone – to give a pre-suntan level of pigment. The Solitair app analyses the image and combines the information with the user’s location, the weather forecast and their schedule for the day to give individual guidance on optimum times in the sun with and without sunscreen with different sun protection factors (SPFs). The sensing device monitors actual sun exposure and gives real-time updates via the smartphone throughout the day – with alerts when the user is nearing the recommended maximum time.

“People are worried about sun exposure because of possible skin damage, including premature ageing – but staying indoors is not the answer,” said Peter Luebcke, head of personal care at Cambridge Consultants. “We all need some sun exposure to lift our mood and avoid the health problems caused by vitamin D deficiency. But exposure to UV rays doesn’t just happen when you’re lying on a beach – it’s accumulating on the ski slopes and even as you just walk around during the day.

“So how do you know what’s right for you? Clearly the optimum amount of time in the sun will be different for a dark-skinned person in Norway or Canada compared with a fair-skinned person on the Equator. Solitair takes a lot of the guesswork out of staying safe in the sun.”

Cambridge Consultants is demonstrating Solitair, together with other innovations such as the XelfleX ‘smart’ textile and the KiCoPen concept – a connected injection pen powered without a battery – at the 2015 International CES, January 6-9, in the Sands Expo, Halls A-C, stand 74224.

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