Controlling room temperatures with body heat…

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Credit: Courtesy Joon-Ho Choi

While he was a university student, Joon-Ho Choi worked in a hospital, where he noticed that patients—especially those in intensive care—rarely have much control over their environments. “They are subjected to temperature and lighting conditions that are set more for the comfort of the nursing staff,” he recalls.

That observation became the inspiration for Choi’s research while studying for his Ph.D. in engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He wanted to see if he could devise a way that human biosignals—such as heart rate, skin temperature, movement, sweat—could be used with body sensors to trigger adjustments in the heating and cooling systems in a room for greater individual comfort.

Working with Vivian Loftness, a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture & Center for Building Performance & Diagnostics, and using grant money from the Pittsburgh-based Green Building Alliance (GBA), Choi found that a person’s arm is the best place to attach a sensor that, through a wireless connection, could help regulate a room’s thermostat. Loftness suggested that the sensor could be part of a simple bracelet or even the underside of a watch.

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