Evaluating the comfort of thermally dynamic wearable devices

Wang Z., K. Warren, M. Luo, X. He, H. Zhang, E. Arens, W. Chen, Y. He, Y. Hu, L. Jin, S. Liu, D. Coh , Building and Environment ,167 (2020)

Thermal discomfort is a widespread problem in the built environment, due in part to the variability of individual occupants' thermal preferences. Personal comfort systems (PCS) address this individual variability, and also enable more energy-efficient thermal conditioning in buildings by reducing the need for tight indoor temperature control. This study evaluates a novel approach to PCS that leverages the time-dependence of human thermal perception. A 6.25 cm2 wearable device, Embr Wave, delivers dynamic waveforms of cooling or warming to the inner wrist. In three thermal comfort tests conducted in a climate chamber with N = 49 subjects and temperatures between 20 and 28 °C, the device exhibited a corrective potential of 2.5 °C within 3 min for both warm and cool populations, while consuming ~1 W of power. The effect is even more pronounced (corrective potential up to 3.3 °C over periods of 3- and 45-min) when subjects are given control of the device's operation. Subjects are found to optimize the device settings for pleasantness, not for the intensity of sensation. These results indicate that this low-power, wearable device improves whole-body thermal sensation, comfort, and pleasantness. It is an appropriate tool for addressing the problem of thermal discomfort in moderate indoor environments.

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