Things your phone reminds you of: Your mother's birthday. Your child's medical agreement. The thing Beyoncé said on Twitter. The new episode of "The Romanoffs." E-mail. News headlines.
Thanks to researchers from Northwestern University's Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics, your phone can also tell you exactly how much sunlight your body has absorbed today based on what you're up to, what the weather is and where you're physically located on the globe.
Oh, by the way – it's time to recycle sunscreen.
This useful information comes with a small sensor developed by Northwest researchers John A. Rogers and Dr. Steve Xu, who can hold on to your skin or cut your hat. "It's less than a dollar, thinner than a credit card," says Xu, "and you can hold it or cut it anywhere that allows people to customize it."
His favorite program? Use the sensor as a nail polish. (Researchers love the fingernail as a vehicle for a portable device, he says because it's stable, durable and can handle adhesives.)
The sensor is so small, Xu says, "I often forget that I wear it." However, the device packs a lot of power and data acquisition capability: It can accurately measure UVA and UVB radiation, as well as light exposure, running on solar energy without battery and never needing recharging.
Getting rid of the need to charge does not just make it easier to use, Xu says, "it allows the device to become even smaller and cheaper to make." It's also virtually indestructible – in the laboratory the students dropped it in boiling water and simulated to run it through a washing machine, but could not break it.
The corresponding phone app allows users to enter information about sunscreen, clothes and activities (for example, whether in or out of the water). "It's really a platform technology," says Xu, "who can measure the light very accurately in a new way."
It is important, he says, because sun exposure is No. 1 contributing to skin cancer, which has become a growing global epidemic. "One in five Americans want skin cancer in their lifetimes and it's really scary. But if you think when we enjoy ourselves from the outside, we're just guessing how much sun exposure we get and it's incompatible with how much sun cream we put on. Usually you do not know before the next day when you get red with sunburn, you have too much sun. "And every sunburn increases the chance of skin cancer. "All this," says Xu, "translates into an increased life-time risk."
The increasing ubiquitous need for better protection against UV radiation is why there is a consumer version of the sensor, called "My Skin Track UV", developed with the cosmetic giant L & # 39; Oreal. It was launched in November in the Apple Store. You can keep it on your child or yourself and get a phone alarm that warns you before you soak up the sun on your winter vacation, crossing the line into the sunburn area. (Which means you can also save the rest of us home, the sympathetic hug we get at the sight of your neon-red skin.