Early warning on the wrist

Health conscious sun worshippers and asthmatics may soon be able to gauge risk levels with separate developments from APA Optics and Birmingham University.

APA Optics has developed SunUVWatch, an early warning system for sunbathers, containing a minute detector that senses a person’s exposure to ultra violet light.

Containing patented technology, the detector utilises aluminium, gallium and nitride to form the UV sensor.

The watch computes an ‘Initial Safe Exposure Time’ and continues to re-compute exposure time based on the changing intensity of the suns rays throughout the day.

The user pre-sets exposure settings by selecting skin type and SPF strength of their sunscreen and an alarm sounds once the exposure limit of UV has been reached.

Similarly, researchers at Birmingham University are developing a wristwatch that will tell asthma sufferers when they are at risk of having an attack.

The watch would monitor known irritants, such as ozone, unburned hydrocarbons from petrol and the oxides of nitrogen, and give wearers a warning that would allow them to take preventative measures.

Researchers from Birmingham University plan to engineer the sensor using nanotechnology.

‘The idea of a nano-nose is that it would be microscopic in size and be sensitive to six gases in parallel,’ said Professor Richard Palmer at the British Association’s Festival of Science.

‘You would be walking down the road and your wristwatch display could show you the spectrum of gases in the atmosphere.’

The sensor would work by measuring the electric current flowing through gas molecules trapped in a chip.

‘A voltage is applied across the chip and then the gas flows in and changes the current and as you scan the voltage, you get a spectrum that discloses the gases that are present.’

Professor Palmer expects to have a working model within five years.