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From left, Health Department Intern Maura Connell, Director of Health Dennis Johnson, and Parks & Recreation Director Rick Maynard receive the Jacobs Beach SOLaware Display from SOLaware Tech Project Lead Ferenc Fazekas. Photo courtesy of SOLaware

From left, Health Department Intern Maura Connell, Director of Health Dennis Johnson, and Parks & Recreation Director Rick Maynard receive the Jacobs Beach SOLaware Display from SOLaware Tech Project Lead Ferenc Fazekas. (Photo courtesy of SOLaware )

New Technology Helps Guilford Residents be Sun-Safe at Jacobs Beach

Published Aug. 07, 2018

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With temperatures hovering in the high 80s, Guilford residents are heading to the water to try to find a little relief. While folks pop on their bathing suits and hop in the water, remembering to apply sunscreen is important and now Guilford has a new piece of technology designed to help residents remember to apply and re-apply sunscreen throughout the day.

On July 31, SOLaware Technologies installed a SOLaware display at Jacobs Beach. The device, about the size of a traffic sign, shows that sun damage—including sunburn, skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancer—could be underway in the amount of time displayed if a resident isn’t wearing sunscreen or UV-protective clothing. The display automatically adjusts its time display and UV index indicator as it detects increases or decreases in risk. It also includes an educational board spelling out AWARE: Apply sunscreen, Wear protective gear, Avoid direct sunlight between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and then Enjoy the outdoors.

The device was created at Quinnipiac University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship two years ago, as a student project led by Ferenc Fazekas and now SOLaware Technologies is rolling out its display pilot program this summer.

Guilford First Selectman Matt Hoey first learned about the device when he and other first selectmen were invited to a presentation at North Haven First Selectman Mike Freda’s office. Hoey said he was immediately taken with the project and the message it sends, particularly because so many summer camps take place at Jacobs Beach.

“It’s a good public safety initiative,” he said. “So much of our medical costs are wrapped up in treatment as opposed to prevention and that has been the thrust of the health care reforms over the last couple of years. Whether or not we are going to save anyone from skin cancer or not is dubious or doubtful, but it is an initiative that we think is important enough to take advantage of.”

For the 2018 pilot season, SOLaware devices are being leased to businesses and municipalities at a discounted price. For this season, Guilford joins with other towns including Branford, North Haven, Wallingford, Middletown, and Darien. Hoey said he wants to see how residents react to the device this season and then consider expanding next summer.

“We have the opportunity to do something similar up at Lake Q(uonnipaug), so we are going to evaluate this this year, see the reaction, [and] get some input from the community because there will be some nominal costs associated with the rental of these devices going forward,” he said.

Currently the device is powered by battery and requires electrical service. Hoey is interested to see how the device might be further developed to become more efficient.

“One of the developments that they want to move forward and they know they have to move forward is some kind of solar power so they can be more affordable, because this currently requires an outlet,” he said. “I think it’s pretty cool and when I saw it I was impressed by it and the fact that it’s coming out of the Quinnipiac entrepreneurial program. I thought we should take a look at this.”

The device is also equipped with a dispenser of free SPF 30+ sunscreen, so if a resident looks at the display and realizes more sunscreen is needed, he or she doesn’t have to look very far. Other Guilford departments including Parks & Recreation and the Health Department support the project. Health Director Dennis Johnson said a device like this helps spread awareness to residents.

“Being in public health, we learn about primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention and this device is a complete system,” he said in a press release. “It discloses a warning, advises action, and provides response in the form of protection. The display is unique in that regard and will nicely complement our department’s wide variety of health promotion activities.”

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