The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Community News Network

January 21, 2014

Is a wearable bracelet that measures your sun exposure actually useful?

The discussion surrounding smartwatches this year is all about aesthetics. Who can make a smartwatch that people actually want to wear? And as these and other wearable sensing devices proliferate, the tension between looks and performance is intensifying. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the June bracelet, which was announced at the Consumer Electronic Show this month on and is out later this year. The device tracks a user's sun exposure and syncs with an app on iDevices via Bluetooth to monitor UV intensity, recommend appropriate SPF, give skincare advice based on how much time a user spends in the sun, and even give warnings when a user has caught too many rays.

Created by Netatmo, the sensor company known for smart home devices such as weather monitors and thermostats, June exemplifies tradeoffs in form and function. The device was designed by Camille Toupet — a veteran of Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston — and it has a photovoltaic gem centerpiece which can be either worn as a bracelet or taken off the band and clipped onto clothing. It costs $100 and comes in platinum, gold, and gun metal. It's an unusually attractive, even fashionable, wearable that actually looks like statement jewelry instead of a piece of technology.

But it really only does one thing: It measures sun exposure. It's a single-use device that syncs to a single-use app. Perhaps it foreshadows a world where we each customize our array of wearable sensors by picking and choosing among single-focus gadgets from day to day. Which sensors we want and how we want to look would both play a part in dictating how we dressed and accessorized. Wearables certainly would be a lot more attractive if they weren't crammed with maximal functionality. But this is also wildly inefficient, and previous technologies haven't evolved this way. Cameras, MP3 players, calculators, notebooks, calendars, phones, and everything else eventually collapsed into smartphones: one device. No matter how attractive a sensor-turned-bracelet is, there's a limit to how many wearables one person can actually, you know, wear.

The June is also interesting because it's marketed specifically to women. Most smartwatches and fitness monitors at the moment are gender-neutral, though some smartwatches are still pretty large and therefore fit more comfortably on men's wrists. According to Netatmo's website, the June "is meant to help women know when and how to protect their skin every day from sun damage." And that's fine. But men need to protect themselves from sun damage, too, and women may not require their sun exposure sensor to look like designer jewelry.

Since the aesthetic direction of wearables is still undetermined, and is currently dictated by the tech inside, the devices present a good opportunity to move away from traditional, often reductive, male and female marketing, which can be particularly blatant in tech. Example: the EPad Femme tablet for women. Alternate example: The Honda Fit She's. It's a tall order, but balancing form and function is the crux of the uncertainty in wearables right now.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014