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Thermostat Wars to End, Wristify Lends a Hand

Fri, 05/02/2014 - 8:42am
Caitlin Johnson, Contributing Editor

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This winter, I’ve engaged in a thermostat war with my roommate. One night, in a shivering, desperate attempt to find a way to stay warm, I turned to Google for a solution that didn’t involve wearing half of my wardrobe. What I found continues to excite me.

 A research team at MIT has developed a thermoelectric bracelet, Wristify. The device monitors air and skin temperature and sends pulses of hot or cold waveforms to the wrist, changing the body’s temperature at a rate of up to 0.4°C per second.

Read: 'Cool' Invention Wins First Place at MADMEC

It’s the perfect complement to the human body, which regulates its core temperature through the hypothalamus. Wristify is similar to placing a cool cloth on your forehead to bring down a fever, but unlike the rag it takes eight hours to lose its cool (the device is powered by a lithium battery).

The research aims to decrease energy the consumption costs of commercial and residential buildings. The team found that the most economical way to do that is by controlling the temperature of a person rather than an entire building. According to MIT, “If the device stops one building from adjusting its temperature by just 1°C, it will save roughly 100 kilowatt-hours per month.”

The working prototype includes a heat sink, an automated control system, and integrated thermometers that measure air and body temperature, and adjust accordingly.

I am frequently uncomfortable – either too hot or too cold – so Wristify seems more a stroke of genius than flash in the pan gadget. Imagine never chattering your teeth in your cubicle again or feeling like you’re two degrees below your boiling point.

I still question the bracelet’s efficacy. I can’t imagine that if you’re in a home with a broken thermostat that a thermoelectric bracelet will be able to provide much relief. Will it keep you from freezing if you get stuck in your car in a blizzard? Can it bring down a fever? Or will it only warm you up if you’re a little chilly?

Then again, the aim of Wristify is to decrease energy consumption of buildings, and our perceived level of personal comfort is a bonus.

It isn’t on the market yet, so unfortunately, we’ll have to wait for a couple of years to see if Wristify will be the end to thermostat wars and high energy consumption costs.

Do you think that Wristify only works for small-scale temperature differences, or will it be effective in extreme temperatures? Will it work at all? Tell us about it in the comment section below, or send your comments to caitlin.johnson@advantagemedia.com

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