The Farmers' Almanac predicts this summer is going to be a scorcher. That, combined with a deteriorating ozone layer, means the fair-skinned among us have much to worry about this season.
To help them brace for the scalding sun, Netatmo is launching a wearable ultraviolet monitor on Saturday. The device warns users when they've had too much sun exposure. Best known for its consumer weather-monitoring stations, Netatmo has established itself as a brand that helps people understand the environment around them. Geared entirely toward women, its UV tracker, June, takes the form of a gemstone, and can be worn with two included thin bracelets—one leather and one silicon—or clipped onto clothing.
"We really wanted it to be a fine piece of jewelry," product manager Emmanuelle Thomas told Fast Company. A fair-skinned woman from Paris, Thomas said the gadget has given her insights on her sun exposure at beach outings as well as casual strolls. "You're aware you need protection, but in your daily life, you don't know how much sun you're taking—you're having lunch at the terrace, going to the park with kids—moments you don't know you need protection."
Designed by Camille Toupet—whose design credits include collaborations with Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston—June is noticeably devoid of a screen, buttons, lights, or any visible electronic components. The sensor connects with iPhones over Bluetooth, and its companion app shows real-time and historic sun exposure for a user's skin type.
After asking users a series of questions, the app uses the Fitzpatrick scale to classify skin into six types—type 1 includes people who always burn in the sun, and type 6 is made up of people with darker skin who tan very easily—to customize its recommendations. The app tells users how much UV they've been exposed to as a percentage of their daily sun dose (e.g., at 90%, a person shouldn't spend much more time in the sun). The dose adjusts accordingly when users toggle a button to indicate if they have applied sunscreen or not. Depending on the day, the app might suggest users lather on a specific strength of sunscreen, don a hat, wear a pair of sunglasses, or get out of the sun entirely.
However, during my two and a half weeks of testing June, the gadget failed to live up to expectations in a few ways. On a subjective level, the gem rarely blended in as an inconspicuous piece of jewelry. I often got remarks from fellow techies curious about this strange ornament on my wrist, not helped by the fact the bands were about an inch too large for me. I also had concerns about losing this $99 tracker because the clip on the back wasn't terribly snug.
In addition, the app failed to reflect actual UV levels on multiple occasions. For example, when I spent about an hour working from a rooftop deck on a bright day, the app barely registered my UV exposure—even though an email alert I set up with automation service IFTTT told me the UV index was at nine that day. The June app's forecast section put the day's UV rating at eight and recommended I pack SPF 50 sunscreen in my bag. However, the real-time monitoring device said the UV index was at zero during the first 20 minutes I spent on the roof, eventually moving the dial to one—a huge discrepancy from reality.
The app also suffered from other major functional flaws. One, it doesn't work without a connection to the Internet, which means the tracker and app were of no help during off-the-beaten-path outdoor activities, such as an 8.5-mile hike I logged one sunny weekend. Secondly, the app would periodically sign me out, sometimes asking me to restart from scratch and re-pair the device over Bluetooth. Establishing the connection, unfortunately, requires June to be connected to its charging cable, so I couldn't do this in the field. Again, this meant not receiving any helpful notifications, which happens to be June's biggest appeal. To Netatmo's credit, it's still the early days of June (no pun intended), and the company says it is working to push out an app update.
June demonstrates the potential of wearables: They don't have to be clunky gadgets that clash with a person's style. Against a sea of wearable trackers that measure steps, distances, calories burned, and heart rates, June is unique for shining a light on an otherwise invisible metric: sun exposure. June championed a concept, but remains lacking in its execution—both in the accuracy of its readings and the delivery of real-time notifications.
[Images courtesy of Netatmo]