Wristify: Thermoelectric Wearable Would Reduce Energy Consumption

An artist's rendering of EMBR Labs' thermoelectric wearable by Italian designer Niccolo Casas.
Image: EMBR Labs
An artist's rendering of EMBR Labs' thermoelectric wearable by Italian designer Niccolo Casas.

Last week Computex, the largest ICT trade show in Asia, was accompanied by record breaking heat (38.7ºC). So it should be no surprise that Wristify, a thermoelectric bracelet, was popular with visitors to the Taipei show.

Wristify, invented by MIT startup EMBR Labs, works because the wrist is rich with blood-flow, so the cold provides quick relief. Similarly, it could also rapidly warm up a shivering skirt-wearing lady (your reporter) who’d been in an air-conditioned room for hours.

“… anytime you’re feeling too hot, too cold, stressed, or anything like that, you can basically control the sensation that you have on your skin and that can produce the overall effective, feeling better,” says co-founder David Cohen-Tanugi. 

The watch-shaped prototype wearable is manually controlled, letting the user adjust the temperature to their preferred level.  The team is adding intelligence so that a future product will be able to automatically adapt, according to Cohen-Tanugi. And the company is in the final preparations for a public launch of product pre-orders, which should happen by the end of September, he says.

EMBR Labs founders were students in the materials science department at MIT when they selected the right thermoelectric material used in the bracelet. The startup also came up with proprietary control algorithms to maximize thermal sensation the user feels.

A thermoelectric bracelet might help people to work under the scorching sun, conduct other outdoor activities, or enter crowded subway trains in the summer. It also helps global travellers quickly adapt themselves to the environment in different climate zones.

But Cohen-Tanugi says the team’s ultimate mission to reduce the energy consumption of buildings by cooling and heating the individual directly. The number of homes with air conditionings are expected to rise from 13 percent today to more than 70 percent at the end of the century, according to researchers at UC Berkley’s Haas School of Business. And that could send electricity use skyward. Personal cooling systems, and Wristify is just one in development, allow air conditioners to be set to a more energy-efficient point and individuals to make up the difference as they want.

EMBR labs started this project in 2013 with the knowledge that buildings right now use an incredible amount of energy for space heating and cooling, and that expanding the temperature comfort window of a building by just 1º C would result in energy savings of 7-15 percent.

“We want to help individuals take control of their own comfort in order to feel better in their own skin while helping the planet,” Cohen-Tanugi says.

This post was corrected on 7 June.

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