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Bright idea: Smart bracelet monitors UV exposure

A device developed in Sweden changes color as the risk of over-exposure progresses to warn wearers when it's time to get out of the sun.

University of Strathclyde

Let's face it: How much sun is too much sun is, for most of us, one giant guessing game. We can use all the sunscreen we want and watch the clock like hawks, but the surest signs that we've had too much -- the pink burn, the blisters, the vomiting -- come well after the damage has been done.

Chemistry professors at the University of Strathclyde in Sweden hope to remove some of the guesswork with their UV-detecting wristband, which they plan to bring to market in 2013.

The device, which uses what is called UV dosimeter technology, relies on concepts that have been used in clinical research for years. An acid-release agent decomposes in sunlight, while a dye responds to pH levels, so that as sun exposure increases the color of the band gradually shifts from yellow to pink.

The bracelet is also by no means the first of its kind. But these are Swedes we're talking about. The design has got to set this one apart -- even the news release hints at elegance to come by stating that the solution will be not only affordable, but "fashionable."

For someone like myself, who lives in rainy Portland where the risk of malignant melanoma from sun exposure is for much of the year considered to be low, the gadget may seem extraneous. But I'm willing to bet wearers would be surprised by how many rays filter down on those cloudy days. And the Swedish designers are probably willing to bet that a styling UV bracelet might make its user feel hot in more ways than one.