Wristify: Thermoelectric Wearable Would Reduce Energy Consumption

Could a wearable reduce air conditioning costs? Yes, say makers of Wristify

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

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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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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