A thin, lightweight sensor tiny enough to sit on a fingernail has claimed the title as the world’s smallest wearable. Although it’s meager in size, its mission is to measure a person’s exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
Developed by Northwestern University and L’Oréal, the solar-powered device, called UV Sense, has a circumference smaller than an M&M.
“We think it provides the most convenient, most accurate way for people to measure sun exposure in a quantitative manner,” says Northwestern engineer John A. Rogers. “The broader goal is to provide a technology platform that can save lives and reduce skin cancers by allowing individuals, on a personalized level, to modulate their exposure to the sun.”
UV Sense is waterproof and can easily attach to the body or a piece of clothing. According to Rogers, a thumbnail serves as the ideal sensor location, due to the rigid surface and its exposure to the sun.
“It is orders of magnitude smaller than anything else out there,” says Rogers. “It also is one of the few sensors that directly measures the most harmful UV rays. Further, it simultaneously records body temperature, which is also very important in the context of sun exposure.”
The device comes with a downloadable smartphone app. When someone sways their phone over the tiny sensor, the app will display sun exposure data for the entire day, or over a longer period of time. The app can also suggest alternative outdoor activities to reduce UV levels.
“UV Sense is transformative technology that permits people to receive real-time advice via mobile phone messages when they exceed their daily safe sun limit,” says June K. Robinson, M.D., research professor of dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Thanks to a National Institutes of Health grant, the device has gotten the green light for human clinical studies. Pre-pilot trials started in December.
Recently, UV Sense was unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas.