Pop quiz: what is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ? It’s your skin, dummy! Apart from keeping your blood and guts from leaking out, skin regulates your body temperature and protects you from a variety of external hazards. Long story short, your skin is pretty darn important.
As we enter the age of wearable tech, fitness and health-related gadgets that can monitor heartbeat and track your workouts abound. Fitbit and Apple Watch are great for giving users a glimpse of their overall health, but despite physically touching it to get a reading, none of these wearables are monitoring your skin.
In beauty-obsessed South Korea, one startup hopes to fix that – all while capitalizing on both the burgeoning worldwide internet-of-things (IoT) movement and the booming domestic skincare sector. WAY has devised a portable gadget that can monitor a user’s skin condition and surroundings to give them an instant snapshot of their largest organ’s health and tips for how to improve it.
A trio of sensors
When we fall down or spend too much time in the sun, our skin bears the physical signs of damage. But on a day-to-day basis, our skin health isn’t always clear. Understanding our skin condition is further complicated by environmental factors like temperature and humidity. That’s why WAY uses three sensors: one to check the current UV index and another to gauge humidity, combined with a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) sensor that can read moisture content and estimate oil levels within the skin tissue itself.
Getting a skincare reading with WAY is as simple as touching the device to your face and opening up the companion smartphone app, compatible with both Android and iOS. It connects via Bluetooth LE and has a battery life of one week. Recharging is done via a micro USB cable (in the land of Samsung and LG, something most Koreans certainly carry around).
WAY is powered by an ARM Cortex-M0 CPU. It’s similar in size and shape to a makeup compact, has a vibration motor and LED light for alerts, and is available in two color combinations: black and gold or white and silver.
Dermatologist in your purse
The startup, based in Seoul’s swanky Gangnam district, hopes to position itself as a dermatologist in your purse – and it even has one as a co-founder.
“Skincare IoT was always a challenge that I wanted to respond to, and it’s meaningful for me to actually make it for real,” Dr. Gana Oh, WAY’s co-founder and medical consultant, tells Tech in Asia. “It’s a valuable challenge.”
Dr. Oh says there are two main healthcare-related benefits to be gained from using WAY daily:
First and foremost, users can work on their general skincare and anti-aging with WAY, based on accurate data. Secondly, I believe that WAY could even help prevent skin cancer. Sunlight is essential to vitamin D production, but too much can be harmful. WAY will give you recommendations on those environmental conditions, too, such as what SPF sunblock to use based on the UV index.
After getting a reading from the WAY device, the app displays a user’s estimated “skin age.” A graph displays either a good, normal, or bad rating for skin moisture, oiliness, pigment, wrinkles, and pore congestion (the latter four are based on a combination of the moisture reading and a skin type questionnaire that users fill out upon downloading the app). It even tracks a woman’s period and water intake to see how those changes affect her skin condition. It then gives personalized beauty tips based on the data it collects. For dry skin, it might notify a user to drink more water and apply extra moisturizer.