MIT could revolutionize the way we heat buildings with “Local Warming”


When it comes to winter, one major issue that all building managers have to grapple with would be the issue of heating. Optimizing the heating in a building can be quite a tricky affair, especially when it comes to large spaces including lobbies of huge buildings. This is not the most efficient method of getting things done, but the folks over at the MIT have come up with a possible solution through the introduction of motion-detecting spotlights which will be able to target the individual people in the room, hence saving money as well as energy. This particular new heating system hails from MIT’s Senseable City Lab, where it has in the past, delivered other devices such as high-tech bus stops, GPS robot heads, and flying 3D displays. Known as Local Warming, this system comprises of a series of panels that has large infrared heat lamps which have been embedded in the ceiling.

Saving energy and our climate future often seems to come with sacrifice, but what if a new technology could eliminate some of the wasted energy on heating or cooling in buildings? Forget about monitoring your thermostat with Nest and following Jimmy Carter’s advice to put on a sweater; try a new ceiling-mounted heating system that uses motion tracking to create personal climates. Developed by researchers at the MIT Senseable City Lab, the system targets and tracks people in a building and then synchronizes climate control with those occupants. The WiFi-based motion tracking system, previously developed at the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing, works in real time, instantaneously sending data to the heat-radiating bulbs. The ceiling-mounted system is composed of panels with infrared heat lamps. These infrared bulbs project heat directly onto the occupants, with the aid of mirrors and rotating motors, rather than a building having to use an internal piping system to heat the entire space. Therefore, the space the person occupies is heated while the surrounding area is left at room temperature. The innovation, dubbed “Local Warming,” first came to mind when Carlo Ratti, director of the MIT Senseable City Lab, considered how much energy is wasted on heating lobbies and open areas when they are only sparsely occupied. Ratti and his team chose to first study the discrepancy between HVAC systems and occupancy levels in buildings within MIT’s campus andpublished the results. That academic study became the basis for launching their product.

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