Wearable technology has had some pretty consistent flaws across the board, mostly in relation to that problem that nags at most tech: battery life. Apple Watches run for a full day without needing a charge, but few last much longer than that. Smart shoes are looking more and more like the future of fashion and tech but have yet to permeate the mainstream, and wearers still battle with battery life. Nevertheless, concerns about the technology’s sustainability have many wondering if wearable tech is a trend or the future.
L’Oreal’s UV Sense
Now, French cosmetics powerhouse L’Oreal is working in conjunction with wearable tech firm MC10 and design studio/marketing consultants fuseproject to create a radical new product: UV Sense. UV Sense is a piece of wearable technology designed to fit right on your nail, functioning much like a nail appliqué. The key? The UV Sense doesn’t have a battery. Instead, the UV Sense draws on the UV rays your body is receiving, as well as charging off of sunlight. With a single charge, it can run for up to a month. The UV Sense takes that data and uploads it to the corresponding smartphone app, which then displays your sun exposure, amount, and risk to your skin on a seamless digital interface.
The beauty industry accounts for nearly $88 billion a year, a number so massive that not even breaking it down makes it any less staggering. Skincare accounts for $24 billion, makeup for $18 billion, $15 billion for perfume, and $38 billion for hair products alone. In a sense, it’s almost surprising that wearable technology has taken this long to merge with an industry that has such a strong hold on over 50% of the population.
This isn’t the first time L’Oreal has branched into technology. The company released its first UV-tracking patch in 2016. The patch was roughly the size of a bandage, making it significantly larger than the current nail-size Sense. The patch would change colors as it absorbed the UV rays and would require a photograph (from your phone) in order to read and upload the data. In an effort to spread awareness, the company gave out one million free sensors to dozens of countries across the globe. However, the product’s success was less than stellar.
The UV Sense builds off of where the patch left off, making it smaller and more user-friendly. The intuitive software now fetches the information automatically, using Near-Field Communication (NFC) to send the data immediately to your phone. The nail appliqué is made up of three simple components: a sensor, an antenna and a capacitor, all embedded into a single drop of a polymer solution. The UV ray does what sunlight technically always does: actives and energizes, in this case, the sensor is the object of this. The capacitors store energy in a similar way to solar batteries, trapping the electric field.
The UV Sense comes at a time in which wearable technology intended to program data about our health is going through radical changes. But many designs feature wearable flaws that prohibit effective transmissions. Anything worn on the face could be shaded easily by a hat; wearable features like watches, bracelets or rings could also be shrouded by accident, but nails feature a radically new opportunity, as it’s an untapped market and, pragmatically speaking, a part of the body that doesn’t sweat.
More than anything else, UV Sense might fix the key problem with wearable technology. Most who buy items that fall under the wearable tech umbrella tend to abandon the products within a few months of purchase. Integrating products that some consider a luxury is difficult. UV Sense allows integration to be more subtle; small enough to miss and easy enough to forget you’re wearing. As tech companies begin to grapple with the carbon footprint of failed products, items that fit tidily not just into our lives but onto our bodies, might be the future. Even if it hasn’t worked in the form of glasses or spectacles, the future might live on in something as small as a nail.
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