Sunfriend UV wristband encourages healthy sun exposure without sunscreen


December 1, 2013

The UVA+B Sunfriend features LED lights that indicate when users have had a healthy dose of sunlight

The UVA+B Sunfriend features LED lights that indicate when users have had a healthy dose of sunlight

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Most of us are aware of the dangers surrounding the amount of time we spend in the sun. Although we rely on exposure to sunlight to provide us with vitamin D, a lack of protection from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to skin cancer. The UVA+B Sunfriend is designed to let users walk that fine line between too little and too much sun without the use of sunscreen.

The Sunfriend is not the first UV-measuring wrist band we've looked at, but devices such as the UVeBand measure the period of effectiveness of sunscreen based on cumulative UV exposure and prompt users to reapply sunscreen when approaching its UV absorption threshold. Because sunscreen blocks UVB rays, which are beneficial in moderation, as well as UVA rays, the team behind the UVA+B Sunfriend aim to let people tread the right side of that exposure line without using sunscreen.

The goal is to counter an increase in vitamin D deficiency, while curbing skin cancer rates by promoting outdoor activity within a recommended range of sun exposure. The company says, "We designed the SunFriend to help people optimize their vitamin D and reduce the incidence of skin cancer simultaneously."

The waterproof wristband contains patented, NASA-inspired UV sensors with LED indicators that light up as UV exposure accumulates, before flashing once the safe limit has been reached. The user sets the device to their skin tone and sensitivity and it then constantly measures both direct and reflected UV exposure.

The concept gained traction after inventors Shahid Aslam and Karin Edgett won best Consumer Product and Most Popular Vote awards at the 2011 Create the Future contest, run by NASA TechBriefs. Aslam and Edgett then put together a team of engineers, scientists and marketers and set about testing prototypes with the aim of developing UVA+B Sunfriend as a commercial product.

The Indiegogo campaign was launched on October 3 and at the time of writing has raised over US$17,000 of its $25,000 goal. A pledge of $45 ($10 of which goes to the Vitamin D Council) will land you a UVA+B Sunfriend of your own. It's worth noting that this is a Flexible Funding campaign, so the company will be collecting all money pledged even if the goal is not reached.

You can hear from the developers in the video below.

Source: Sunfriend

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

Basically speaking, when you are sunbathing, you take off the Sunfriend monitor, and look at your wrist. If your arm is pink and your wrist is white, you have had enough sun for the day.

David Clarke

UVA+B will give totally misleading information other than near noon. UVA intensity is far greater than UVB (which generates vitamin D) in the morning and afternoon. A UVA+B device will say that you are getting lots of UV, but it is the wrong kind of UV in off hours. At that time UVA is about 5X brighter than the UVB which is wanted.

Henry Lahore

David, Usually when reddening happens for caucasians its too late!! you've already damaged your cellular DNA. Wouldn't be nice to have a gadget which warns you before you turn red? At which point you've had your vitamin D for the day and you can then put on your sunscreen or protect yourself with appropriate clothing!

Shahid Aslam

Henry rightly points out that the UVA and UVB components of the UVA+B spectrum changes during the day. However, Sunfriend calculates (using an embedded microprocessor) the weighted response in favor of the UV wavelengths that human skin is most sensitive according to the erythema action spectrum. Integrating the the multiplication of erythema action spectrum and the solar irradiance in the UV+B radiation bandwidth gives the effective irradiance. The time integral of the effective irradiance gives the effective dose.

Shahid Aslam

In New Zealand for most of the summer this will tell you to go back inside after 10 or 15 minutes. NZ has about as high a level of UV as anywhere on earth- despite it's subtropical (at best) climate. Sunscreen or equivalent is essentially essential.

Russell McMahon

Mass produce & test on cruise ships & Caribbean & Hawaii alone.

Stephen Russell

From what I've read the chemicals in sunscreen cause more cancer than the sun itself. I'm keen to get one of these bands so heading over to check out the campaign.

Sean Ross

Sean, You make a good point! Yes!, chemical sunscreens deserve special scrutiny because most are known to permeate the skin to some degree. Two European studies have detected common sunscreen chemicals in mothers’ milk, indicating that the developing fetus and newborns may be exposed to these substances (Schlumpf 2008, Schlumpf 2010). A 2010 study by Margaret Schlumpf of the University of Zurich found at least one sunscreen chemical in 85 percent of milk samples. Four of the chemicals detected are commonly used in U.S. sunscreens. SunFriend says take your daily allowance of sun exposure and then protect yourself! If you need or want to stay longer in the sun then use an organic sunscreen!

Shahid Aslam

If I understood it correctly, if I am sunbathing this will tell me when I had enough sun to produce maximum of vitamin D, not just before when I get burned? I think this device can be useful but what is really the difference between these and other bands such as uv sun sense and smartsun which also can be used without sun screen?

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