We have an odd relationship with the sun in this part of teh world. We don’t see enough of it, and when things do brighten up in the summer months, we manage to both gleefully worship it and foolishly underestimate it. La Roche-Posay’s Skinchecker 2016 campaign research reveals that the 8 out of 10 people worry about the risks of skin cancer, but only 2 out of 5 of us wear sunscreen during the summer months. Awareness is a crucial part of this matter and technology may be about to change how we monitor our time and risk, in the sun.
Created by L’Óreal’s Global Technology Incubator unit, My UV Patch was designed by Irish tech company PCH and has been brought to the market by La Roche-Posay. The patch is unusual in the world of wearable technology as it’s applied directly to the skin, is stretchable rather than rigid and is thinner than a human hair.
The Patch arrived in a stylish, chrome coloured envelope about the size of a paperback book. Looking like a high-end cosmetic product I discovered the pack contains just a small applicator tab and some basic printed instructions. The application process is not difficult, but requires a little care. Peeling off the back of the patch, I applied the patch which is about a square inch in area, to the back of my hand. Then I used the smart plastic tab that spirals off leaving the patch firmly affixed to my skin.
You need to apply the patch to an area of your body that’s going to be exposed to the sun and also is easily reachable for measuring the data from the match via your phone, for instance, the forearm or hand rather than your back or shoulder. Once the patch was applied I realised just how thin and delicately engineered it is. There is absolutely no sensation from wearing the patch and I noticed that it moved easily with my skin, stretching as I moved my hand during the day.
Once the patch is applied you need to download the iOS or Android app to your smartphone. The app guides you through the set-up process which informs the way your UV exposure is measured. I selected my skin colour, eye colour, hair colour and discovered and the app advised me what skin phototype I am. I selected my skin type and my preferred texture of sun-tan lotion and my location and completed the profile set-up.
As soon as thus user profile is created the app advises you of the UV index in your location and it requests that you to scan the patch. The scanning process is straightforward, you point your camera towards the blue, heart-shaped centre section of the UV patch and the app cleverly identifies it and records a reading. It asks you to confirm if you’ve applied sunscreen, reminds you to be careful and schedules the next scan which your phone will notify you of.
The app uses a couple of graphic indicators to illustrate how you’re doing during the day and one of them is a useful exposure meter that goes from green to red as your exposure increases during the day. All the feedback to the wearer happens via the app and the features includes a very useful graphic chart that displays your exposure curve through the hours of the day, which is a useful way to review a day at the beach. The app also displays your current location temperature and the UV index of that location as well as providing simple but practical advice on when to apply sunscreen and other tips on playing safe in the sun.
I wore the patch for four days and it stood up to daily life illustrating its how waterproof and robust it is. The patch itself is brilliantly engineered with its photosensitive panels and flexible electronic but the app itself could perhaps be improved by adding some broader content on the importance of UV protection for say working in the sun, rather than just looking at the device as a leisure-time only product.