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Forget That Thermostat: A New Wristband Controls Your Surroundings

Think about how many times you’ve walked into your office, only to discover that it’s too cold (or too hot), too bright, or too humid. Now think about how much energy could be saved by making these settings more efficient. The WristQue, a wristband from researchers at MIT’s Media Lab, makes this kind of smarter building infrastructure possible–by allowing inhabitants to adjust settings with the press of a button.

The bracelet, which can be easily 3-D printed and customized by material and color, contains a main board with a microprocessor, sensors, and wireless communication capabilities. An expansion board allows for sensor customization. The device features three buttons: one to turn down heat (by turning on air-conditioning, say, or opening windows), one to turn it up, and one to activate any number of motion-detector activated devices in the area, including lights, coffee makers, and shades.

And what if your cubicle-mate likes the office more toasty than you? In the event that coworkers disagree on preferences, the WristQue system uses an algorithm that calculates the average requested temperature and adjusts it to compromise. The bracelet also remembers settings, so it knows to automatically change the temperature when you arrive in the morning (it’s also set to know your usual arrival and departure times, so it can get things nice and toasty for you).

The WristQue obviously will only work in buildings that already have smart HVAC and lighting systems. But it’s remarkably effective. According to New Scientist, a three-week trial of the WristQue system at the MIT Media Lab building yielded a 24% drop in energy use.

The WristQue team hasn’t yet revealed when the device might go on sale, but until there are more sensor-equipped buildings dotting our city skylines, there’s no rush.

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