Wearable tech goes after sun exposure monitoring

With the success of wearable tech for fitness trackers having been solidly established more companies are looking to develop products in that genre. The latest comes in the form of wearable tech that can monitor your exposure to UV rays. If it takes off there is a potential that the number of skin cancer diagnoses may fall. That would be a success on multiple levels. Health advocates, medical centers, insurance companies and everyday people could find that their risk of developing skin cancer could be greatly reduced with these devices.


What’s on the market now?

The two main contenders are the JUNE bracelet style UV detector and the sunZAP, which is designed as a pendant. Both use similar photovoltaic cells to record sun exposure that is then compared to the profile information the user has submitted. That user information contains skin type, eye color, hair color and lifestyle habit information. The program then calculates the level of sun exposure and Advises the person to not only apply sunscreen but what SPF to use.

Why do they work?

wearable technologyWhat the activity trackers have shown is that direct behavioral change training is possible with most people when they are used. The most successful component of the trackers has been the pedometers, which work using simple reminders. This might translate into great success for these “sun detectors.” Not everyone needs the kind of monitoring that world class athletes do. What most people need are interactive devices that prompt them to do what they already know should be done. The only downfall of the current models is the prompting for action is entirely dependent on the wearing remembering to check the device. That may and may not work for different people.


Other options that are more affordable

Not all the SPF tech will have a high price tag. There are several products available now that use photosensitive plastic coatings for measurement. The person wears them as a bracelet or pin and the item changes color as the exposure to UV light continues. While these items aren’t as personalized as the JUNE or sunZAP, they can greatly help people when to recognize they need more protection from the sun.


Will they integrate with the activity trackers?

If there is any reason not to get too excited about these UV monitors it is that they represent yet another item of tech to wear. At some point, someone is going to have to come up with a wearable brand that can do it all. Unless wearing multiple bracelets comes back as a popular fashion trend, chances are people won’t adopt all of these devices at once. That may be bad news for their health, but it is a realistic consideration. As it is, the market for behavioral training devices is taking off and these SPF prompters are just the latest offering.

Pepper the Robot now for sale to consumers

Pepper made news several years ago when it was announced it was the first humanoid robot that could recognize emotions and remember faces. Now, SoftBank has announced that it will be producing 1,000 of these robots for sale to the public in Japan. There is no word yet about when Pepper will be available outside of its country of origin, but buyers are already joining a waiting list. While Pepper is greatly anticipated on the consumer robotics market, there are some questions about whether it will live up to its hype.


What can Pepper really do?

This is the real question for buyers. That is can recognize faces is proven, but the emotional recognition isn’t deemed to be as well developed and accurate as SoftBank likes to promote. While it has fully articulated arms capable of complex motions, the mechanics of the arms are so delicate it cannot perform tasks that involve any weight. This limits its use in the role of an assistant to the elderly and disabled, which is one of the major uses it is being advertised for. With its limitations however, it may be opening up a new market for consumer robotics – that of the companion robot.


Why a robot companion may be a viable product

The idea of spending several thousand dollars on the initial purchase, and several hundred a year for maintenance and updates for a limited capacity robot seems like it would have limited appeal. With even minimal emotional recognition Pepper moves robots from being tools of function into tools of companionship. The robot may not have to be able to do anything beyond ask why the user is feeling sad to earn its place on the market. With Japan facing a steeply rising elderly population that doesn’t have the support of the traditional family for care, more of the elderly are living in isolation. While expensive, the price of Pepper isn’t out of reach. If one begins to cast it as a companion, then one can see how it could be a more successful choice for the elderly than a cat or dog.


SoftBank’s projected production rates are telling

With the announcement that they would be producing 1,000 of these companion robots a month SoftBank is tipping their hand to knowing something about the market that critics may not recognize. In their pricing plan they also have rental programs for corporations. There is much talk about replacing kiosks in transportation hubs with Pepper, as well as using Pepper in healthcare settings. All in all, the success of Pepper is going to depend on how well the first adopters find having the robot is in real life. The real verdict won’t be in until much later in 2016.

smartscooter tech

Taipei testing first electric scooter with battery swap recharge stations

Gogoro has announced that they are testing their new SmartScooter in Taipei. There is a lot to watch here as this is more than just an alternative energy vehicle, these electric scooters feature what could be a game changing recharge plan. The price for the SmartScooter is steep, listed at over $4,000 dollars, but there is no additional cost for fuel. Taipei is a great choice to test out this new vehicle and its novel approach to changing the way electric scooters are used.


What’s so different about the SmartScooter?

There really isn’t much different about this electric scooter compared to others on the market, but there is a huge difference in how the charge is maintained. Forget solar panels or micro battery packs, the SmartScooter works on a battery swap system. Gogoro is installing battery swap stations around the city that allows users to pull up and swap their low energy batteries for fully charged ones. While the initial cost of the scooter is steep there is no cost for two years for the battery swap service. There is also no ability of the user to recharge their batteries from any other power source. This has led to some questions and criticisms about the process.


The biggest criticism of Gogoru’s plan

electric scooterThe only option that owners of the SmartScooter have for recharging is via the battery swap at the installed stations around the capital. This is convenient and acts to extend the range of the electric scooter, and there is also no charge for this service for the first two years after the initial purchase. This is where a very large “but” comes in. Gogoru has not released any specifics about what the monthly or annual cost of the subscription to the battery swap service will be. Given that it is the only way to recharge the scooter owners don’t have any alternatives. This is making some people very hesitant about investing a large sum of money in this electric scooter when fossil fuel powered ones are cheaper and easily available.


Why Taipei?

Taipei is functionally the scooter capital of the world. It is a densely populated city with an enormous amount of scooters on the road. City officials are hopeful that scooters powered with clean energies such as electricity will catch on to help reduce carbon emissions within the city limits. Taipei is not a rich city so it remains to be seen who has the money to invest in a SmartScooter with so much of its annual operating cost undefined. The potential for the scooter is enormous, but it will most likely need a subsidy to make it an affordable transportation solution.