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Exposure to sun is the main cause of skin cancer in the UK and led to 2386 deaths from non-melanoma and malignant melanoma skin cancer in 2006.

Strathclyde's UV Warning Technology - from http://www.rsc.org/publishing/journals/CC/article.asp?doi=b900569b

Exposure to sun is the main cause of skin cancer in the UK and led to 2386 deaths from non-melanoma and malignant melanoma skin cancer in 2006.

There's a great idea picked up by BBC News today, a bracelet that could warn you of impending sunburn. Andrew Mills, one of the Strathclyde academics behind the invention said:

Most people do not know they are showing the signs of sunburn until 4 - 8 hours after being exposed. It is the UV component of sunlight, so it can be pretty deceiving ..."

In the same way as real-time energy displays, the primary behaviour-changing approach of the bracelet is feedback - making visible information about UV available to people so that they can change their behaviour (in this case, cover up). Crucially, it's feedback in advance - as our own body's feedback mechanism of looking lobster-ish only kicks when it's a few hours too late.

Although similar products are already on the marketplace (like SolarSafe's wristband, SunHealth's SunSignals and SunCheck), these products employ a gradual colour change in response to UV. While this provides a level of feedback, gradual changes are easy to miss.

What's innovative about this bracelet is its use of inexpensive, printable, coloured dyes that respond to different amounts of UV known to correspond to particular stages of sunburn to give first an advance caution then a sharp warning - all based on different people's skin type.

In the above photograph, (a) shows a prototype bracelet before exposure to UV, (b) shows half way to sunburn, (c) the minimum amount of UV likely to cause sunburn, and (d) is twice this amount (more details of the chemistry here). When you see the magenta strip - you need to cover up. There's also interesting potential in the use of colour as the method of feedback (see the section on Colour & Contrast on this page as a technique of design with intent).

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