Fall 2019

A better bracelet

Photography by Brett Groehler

What’s in Katelyn France’s backpack? “A medical ID bracelet,” says the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) sophomore, who plans to put the one she’s designed on the market when she graduates.

France first realized the need for a better bracelet at age 14, when she saw an advertisement for one that cost $200 and allowed for only four lines of text. “That’s all you’re supposed to get to save someone’s life in a medical emergency?” she recalls thinking. She told her high school science teacher that she could design a better—and cheaper—one. He challenged her to do it. 

France decided to use QR codes after she discovered that the little square images could be read by any smartphone camera and linked to medical information stored online. She learned how to write code—“it took a lot of Googling and trial and error,” she says. Within a year, she had a prototype: a QR code printed on a square piece of metal that was duct-taped to an old watchband. 

By the time she arrived at UMD last year, she’d refined the design (the bracelet costs about $5 to manufacture), filed for patents, and established a limited liability corporation called SMYLE (Scientists Make Your Life Easier). 

In April, she was one of five entrepreneurs pitching their products in an event showcasing innovation in northern Minnesota. Governor Tim Walz was one of the judges.

The German and biochemistry major says scholarship support enables her to explore her entrepreneurial interests because she doesn’t carry a heavy financial burden. And, she says, she has more ideas she wants to explore: “I love to make stuff work better.”

The bracelet's unique QR code can hold information such as name, date of birth, blood type, medication list, emergency contacts, and more.
Photography by Brett Groehler