According to the Melanoma Foundation, 4,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with melanoma every year. And while the condition rarely occurs in younger Kiwis, sunburn during childhood can contribute toward the cumulative effect of sun exposure over a lifetime.
So, in an effort to ensure that the next generation doesn't add to these statistics, Kiwi entrepreneurs Daniel Xu and Ming Cheuk, founders of innovation company Spark64, have developed the UVLens, a sensor that detects the UV risk in the atmosphere and then communicates this to a tablet.
“Our goal is not just to measure UV levels and deliver information but to truly reinforce sun smart habits and education in communities using the latest innovative solutions that are easy to use and compatible with everyday devices,” says Xu.
To achieve this objective, Spark64 has teamed up with suncare brand Banana Boat to install the UVLens technology in 100 childcare centres around the country.
This means that throughout the course of the day each of these schools will be given alerts when the UV level becomes dangerous. In addition, educators will also be able to set smart sunscreen reminders for when to reapply sunscreen, and UVLens will only provide the reminder if the UVLens technology deems it necessary.
The technology behind the UVLens sensor was first developed by the pair of innovators in 2012 as an entry the Microsoft Imagine Cup, a student technology competition that's based on the premise of making the world a better place. The pair went on to win the 'world citizenship' category as well as the the overall national championship, and then went on to compete in the world finals in Russia.
Banana Boat marketing manager Andre de Beer says this success when combined with the effectiveness of the technology meant that suncare brand was keen to be involved.
“Banana Boat is serious about protecting New Zealanders in all seven conditions (ocean, pool, sweat, sand, wind, sun, heat) so they can enjoy the sun safely,” says marketing manager Andre de Beer. “Having been awarded the Microsoft Imagine Cup and with more than a year of research and development, Spark 64 is an impressive Kiwi company on their way to the top of their field – it was an easy decision to collaborate with them on this important initiative.”
As with any sponsorship deal initiated by a corporate giant for a good cause, Banana Boat's deal with Spark64 could be seen as a simple commercial move with the solitary goal of selling more sunscreen. And while this criticism is probably accurate to some degree, it's worth noting that brands do sometimes motivate positive changes in community behaviour.
A recent blog post titled 'Doing well by doing good' published by Dave Trott on the UK's Campaign Live website discusses the role that soap brands have played in combating disease by encouraging consumers to wash their hands more regularly.
Trott tells the story of how Oxfam and Save the Children partnered with Unilever to provide Lifebuoy soap to combat cholera in Ghana in much the same way that the brand was used to fight the disease in Victorian England in 1895.
In the article, Trott quotes a spokesperson as saying: "Big business is doing what governments can’t. The profit motive is transforming health outcomes. Business has grown by double-digits while child mortality has fallen in all the places where soap use has increased. It reduces deaths from diarrhoea by 45 percent, deaths from pneumonia by 23 percent, and school absenteeism by up to 50 percent."
Yes, Unilever was trying to sell more soap, but in doing so it improved the lives of various communities throughout the world.
And while Banana Boat is clearly in this to sell more suncare products, this isn't necessarily a bad thing given the difference it can make to the lives of around 4,000 Kiwis every year.