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Entirely Rethinking HVAC

Linda Hardesty

Energy Manage WristifySome scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have invented a wristband designed to optimize the thermal comfort of the wearer. The prototype device, dubbed “Wristify,” delivers pulsed thermal waveforms to the user’s wrist, taking advantage of the nuances of human thermal perception to create an experience that may be able to influence perceived thermal comfort. The ultimate goal is a product that is worn on the wrist and uses a combination of environmental monitors and user input to provide an optimal experience. Potentially, less energy might be used to heat or cool large spaces, while the occupants still enjoyed comfortable temperatures.

The inventors, all students at MIT, came up with the idea after noticing that many people are consistently too hot or too cold in everyday environments. Even two people in the same room can have very different levels of thermal comfort depending on their preferences. The scientists’ vision is to improve the quality of life of people in moderate temperature environments through use of smart, localized heating and cooling.

The device is intended to be wearable, with a weight comparable to a men’s wristwatch. Wristify powers the wristband with a light­weight lithium ion battery, similar to those used in cell phones. The device’s energy consumption is algorithmically controlled so that it can last a full day on a single charge.

The scientists report there is still a lot of technological and product development needed before the product is ready for sale. They will soon begin working with design and development firms to improve the aesthetics and functionality of the next­gen prototype. They estimate they are still one to two years away from the first publically available product.

Wristify was developed by four members of the Materials Science & Engineering department at MIT: Matt Smith is postdoctoral associate, Sam Shames is an undergraduate student, and David Cohen­Tanugi and Mike Gibson are Ph.D. students.

Earlier this year, scientists at the University of California Berkeley Center for the Built Environment unveiled a workstation prototype equipped with a foot warmer on the floor and small, finely directed fans so occupants can adjust their workspace temperature.



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