QSun UV tracker

Toronto startup invents device that can help stop sunburns

The warmish weather is finally here and Toronto is chomping at the bit for some of that sweet, sweet sunshine.

It was a long, cold winter that led us to this point and it'll likely take many days of basking to fully get over the trauma — but, as restorative as they can be, our marathon park hangs and lazy beach days aren't without serious risk.

That "summer glow" you're sporting one hour can turn into a sunburn faster than it takes someone to collect your empty (or half-empty, if you're not looking) cans at Trinity Bellwoods.

And yet, our bodies crave the energy-boosting vitamin D we best absorb through sun exposure — especially after a winter like the one we just had.

Imagine if you could get an alert on your phone when you've hit the in-between? Or, more importantly, when you've reached the danger zone?

University of Toronto post-doctoral researchers Ali Monam and Neda Ghazi have made this possible with a sleek, AI-powered, wearable sun tracker that's roughly the size of a bottle cap.

Called QSun, the device can be clipped to any piece of clothing or accessory. A companion app uses artificial intelligence to track sun exposure, vitamin D intake, and give users personalized sun safety recommendations based on their skin type.

When the device detects that you're about to get a sunburn, it will warn you to seek shade or apply more sunscreen.

"1 in 5 Americans and 1 in 7 Canadians develop skin cancer, mostly due to overexposure to the sun," reads the startup's website. "On the other hand, 75% of Americans are vitamin D deficient... QSun is designed to address these worldwide problems."

Ghazi and Monam were able to develop the project at U of T's Impact Centre accelerator. They started raising funds for mass production on Kickstarter a year later and are now selling QSun directly to consumers.

Eventually they hope to team up with sunscreen manufacturers and tourism companies, as well as integrate the UV tracker into existing wearable fitness tech like the Apple Watch.

"What we’re trying to do is tell people, it’s great you're going outside to do outdoor activities and tracking them," said Ghazi to U of T news this week. "But you need to know how much of that activity is sun safe.”

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