researchers bring us “Local Warming” in smart spaces

Imagine you really could take the weather with you, keeping yourself at your most comfortable temperature no matter what the person next to you preferred. Fantasy? Perhaps not, as MIT researchers have developed “Local Warming”, a system that creates personalized climates around individuals.

It works by aiming heat into a small area surrounding each individual in the room, thus reducing heating costs and energy waste.

Demonstrated to the public for the first time at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, Local Warming makes use of Wi-Fi based motion tracking and ceiling-mounted dynamic heating elements to create personal climates around each person inside a building. The idea behind the tech is to save energy by reducing the amount of energy wasted on heating empty or partially occupied buildings.

The system works like this: when someone enters a Local Warming space their location and direction of travel is recognized using MIT-developed Wi-Fi-based location tracking technology. This data is then dispatched to the heating elements which aim themselves at you. The heating elements comprise a servo-motor that changes direction, a bulb to generate infrared radiation, a cold mirror, and other optics to create focused beams.

“Infrared heat is emitted to generate what are essentially spotlights of warmth centered on people a few meters away,” explains Leigh Christie, the project engineer. “This ensures ultimate comfort, while improving the overall energy efficiency.”

The developers believe future applications of the technology could allow each person to set their own preferred temperature using their smartphone – a boon to anyone in search of air conditioning.