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Turning Faces Into Thermostats: Autonomous HVAC System Could Provide More Comfort With Less Energy

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A heat map of a man's face.

A group of researchers at the University of Michigan has developed a solution that could provide more efficient, more personalized heating/ventilation/air conditioning comfort, while doing away with wall-mounted thermostats.

Credit: A. Di Giacinto et al/Neuroscience 2013

University of Michigan (U-M) researchers developed the Human Embodied Autonomous Thermostat (HEAT) to provide more personalized climate control in homes, offices, and factories, while eliminating the need for wall-mounted thermostats.

The system measures whether occupants are hot or cold by tracking their facial temperatures using a combination of thermal cameras and three-dimensional video cameras.

The temperature data is fed into a predictive model that compares it with information about occupants' thermal preferences.

After installing HEAT, occupants use their smartphones to provide feedback (whether they are "too hot," "too cold," or "comfortable"), which allows the system to learn their preferences and operate independently.

U-M's Carol Menassa said facial temperature is a good predictor of comfort because the blood vessels expand when we're too hot and constrict when we're too cold.

A residential version of the system could be on the market within five years.

From University of Michigan News
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