A team of engineers at Northwestern University in the US have collaborated with global beauty company, L’Oréal, to create a tiny wearable device that can precisely measure harmful UV rays from the sun.

The developers believe that their invention, called UV Sense, can go a long way in helping people avoid sunburns and ultimately skin cancer.

The device, which is wafer-thin and smaller in circumference than a chocolate M&M, is powered by the sun so it doesn’t require a battery, is waterproof and can be stuck to any part of the body or item of clothing.

By swiping their smartphone loaded with UV Sense’s corresponding app, the user can view real-time information gathered by the wearable pertaining to their sun exposure for that day, specifically, as well as over time. The app also offers advice about safer times to be outdoors and provides additional information about overexposure to the sun.

“We think it provides the most convenient, most accurate way for people to measure sun exposure in a quantitative manner,” said 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 personalised level, to modulate their exposure to the sun,” continued Rogers.

According to Rogers, the wearable also records body temperature, which is important in the context of sun exposure.

In December 2017 the engineering team led by Rogers in collaboration with Research Professor of Dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr June K. Robinson, and her team of researchers received a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to carry out human clinical studies. The initial study is focusing on sun exposure in cohorts of subjects who are at risk for melanoma.

According to Global Vice President of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator, Guive Balooch, overexposure to UV rays is a top health and beauty concern of their consumers worldwide.

“With this knowledge, we set out to create something that blends problem-solving technology with human-centred design to reach even more consumers who require additional information about their UV exposure,” said Balooch.

UV Sense was unveiled at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES). According to Rogers, future iterations of the device can be produced in any colour with any pattern, logo or branding.

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