Date reviewed: September 2021 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: £24/year (£18/year with discount code BBS25) | ice-scan.com
If the worst were to happen, giving emergency responders immediate access to your medical history and family contact details could be a life-saver. There are several ways to do this, including cards that you pop in your wallet or inside your helmet, necklaces, bracelets, apps and flash-drives, but ICE-scan is a new system than uses a tough sticker with a concealed QR code that can reveal everything from your partner’s phone number to allergies and medical notes.
I’ve installed ICE-scan on three helmets and my phone, to find out if it’s worth having…
ICE-scan consists of water-resistant labels that are stuck to your helmet, phone etc; with the distinctive ‘star of life’ logo they’re easy to spot, but your personal information is concealed under a flap.
Leave it lying around and your data’s hidden from prying eyes by the cover; peel this off to reveal the code then point a smartphone camera at it to be taken to a webpage with your photo and personal information.
When this is accessed you’ll receive an email, just in case anyone’s fiddling with it when you’ve left your kit unattended.
The activation label has a QR code that you can to link the labels to your account
Download the ICE-scan app from the Apple Store or Google Play, then enter your details. Once you’ve done the basics you can order a sticker sheet for £24, which will typically arrive in a few days (mine took just two).
There are clear instructions on the sheet along with five ICE stickers and one activation label, which you just peel the top off, scan with the ICE-scan app, then complete the rest of your medical details.
Think about where on your lid you put the stickers; try to find somewhere that’s unlikely to hit the ground if you were in an accident as there’s no point having it there if it’s going to get rubbed away by tarmac (though nearer the front would make it more likely to be spotted in an accident).
The labels show no signs of coming off under a high pressure water jet
The main adhesive on the ICE-scan labels sticks well to a clean lid, but it also removes cleanly if you want to take it off. The upper label – like multi-layer engine oil bottle labels – has a weaker adhesive that allows it to be peeled away to reveal that QR code.
I tried blasting the stickers at point-blank range with a garden hose on the flat spray pattern but didn’t have them lift. I also peeled one away to test the scanning process, but while the cover label went back on okay, this did blow off with the water jet so it is single-use only. Of course, the QR code still works, it’s just not hidden.
So far I’ve had no problems with the ones applied to my lids, but of course I’ll update this review if necessary.
I’ve also popped one on the back of my phone – as this gets regularly dragged in and out of my pocket, I expect the upper will peel off at some point, though I’m not worried about revealing my information as I wouldn’t leave my phone unattended. So far though, it’s intact.
Your info is displayed when the QR code is scanned, but it doesn’t reveal your home address or any other info that could allow someone impersonate you. This is the view when the code is scanned via the app, but it also displays all the information when you just use the camera on your phone – important for those who haven't downloaded it
Besides the company stressing that ICE-scan is fully GDPR-compliant, your address is not revealed to anyone scanning the QR code. While you do input this when creating your account, only the following fields are seen by anybody who gets access:
Your blood type isn’t displayed as ICE-scan’s advisor, Dr Ian Roberts – vice president of the FIA medical commission, FIA medical rescue coordinator and NHS medical consultant – says that it simply isn’t important to a first responder.
It’s worth noting that the team behind ICE-scan promises that it won’t bombard users with marketing emails – you’ll just receive a reminder when your subscription is nearing an end.
If you do get notification of someone looking at your information, you can block access to your data for a day, three days, a week or a month, though this blocks it from anyone and everyone who might need to access it in an emergency. If you’re particularly worried, you can contact ICE-scan to get new labels.
Given the amount of information that can be so quickly accessed, the benefits are clear. Compared to written information on a card, it’s possible to get a lot more info on here, and as smartphone cameras now recognise QR codes without the need for a separate app, anyone who needs to get that information should be able to do it quickly and easily.
The location finding system What3Words is also being integrated into the service, so anyone scanning the label will be shown where they are, to share with emergency services.
I asked Bryn Williams, director of ICE-scan, how widespread knowledge of the system is; “We have had meetings with and presented to the College of Paramedics and the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives,” he told me, “who between them represent every ambulance crew and paramedic in the UK. Their response to ICE-scan and its benefits to their members were unanimous, so much so that they have communicated to all their members to alert them to ICE-scan and recommend that the App is downloaded onto the tablets that they all carry in their vehicles.
“It's still early days for us as ICE-scan was only launched in July of this year, so we are only now beginning to see the first few reviews appear in press. When we have sufficient funds to invest in advertising and marketing we’ll be rolling out ads and incentives to the motorcycling, cycling and equestrian sectors.
“We’ve already placed a number of ads in BSB programmes and the recent British MotoGP programme with encouraging take-up and positive feedback from customers.”
Of course, to access the quick-to-load webpage that contains your information, the person scanning it needs to have a data signal on their phone, be it WiFi, 3G, 4G or 5G. However, in a location with no signal, emergency responders can radio the number that’s written above the QR code through to control, where the information could still be retrieved.
The top of the sticker is easy to peel away by dragging your nail across it, though I did find that it’s a little trickier with disposable nitrile gloves on. Also, on one I tested, the bottom flap separated from the main part of the upper label, meaning I had to have a second attempt at revealing the QR code.
This small inconvenience is perhaps offset by the alternative of having information on a card that’s in your wallet, which could be in any number of pockets, or indeed in the luggage on your bike, which could be anywhere. I don’t want to paint morbid pictures with words here, but your wallet could be in a tank bag that’s stuck under a car.
Your account only gives you five stickers – you can’t currently order more and link them to your subscription, so you’d have to shell out for another. When you renew you can get a new sticker sheet if any of your labels are worn out (they're expected to last three to four years), but – for now at least – it renders the previous ones inactive. It’s a good way to ensure your data is kept safe but it could be limiting to some people. I’ve got one label on my phone, one on my full-face helmet, one on my flip-front and one on my open-face. That would leave one for my cycle helmet if I hadn’t destroyed the label in testing, but I’d like to have extra for my other motorcycle lids. And if I replace a lid I won’t be able to put a sticker on it until the subscription renews. If you want a sixth, and you're not worried about the QR code being covered, you could use the activation label as it's the same QR code, though you'll need to snip it out by hand as it's not die-cut.
This is something that the team is apparently looking into and as it’s a small business, updates should be reasonably quick when they’re needed, which will also likely iron out the glitches that caused my Android phone to lock up a couple of times when updating my details.
The idea of ICE-scan is certainly a good one for motorcycling, as well as push-biking, horse-riding, skiing / snowboarding and rock climbing. It is yet another subscription to pay every year, though it’s important that the app is kept updated as operating systems evolve, plus we can expect to see charitable investments in the future; “At the moment subscription income is invested in continued development of the app, the technology we employ and ensuring we have the fastest and most secure hosting solution available,” Bryn told me. “In future we are planning on funding community defibrillators, and are looking at other life-saving equipment to support.”
It’s always hard to justify spending money on something you hope you’ll never need, but ICE -scan does appear to be a good implementation of a potentially valuable safety device. At a bare minimum I’d always recommend setting up the ICE information on your mobile phone’s lock-screen, which I have showing my wife’s number (not that she ever answers), but that relies on your phone being found – and operating – by someone at the scene of an accident.
Ultimately, there are a fair few alternatives, but ICE-scan is promising to ensure the UK’s emergency responders are fully aware of this product, and that some of the income will go towards very good causes.
With support from the likes of Dr Ian Roberts, ICE-scan certainly seems to be one of the most accomplished and trust-worthy ‘In Case of Emergency’ ID systems on the market in the UK today.
Save 25% with the ICE-Scan discount voucher code BBS25. To use this, download the app to your phone, then enter the code when ordering your labels