Christopher Campbell, William Schake and Rashad Reynolds, electrical engineering students at the University of Akron set out to solve an age old problem:
During early spring and late autumn the weather can vary quite a bit from day to day, even from hour to hour. Snow flakes in the morning and temperate weather in the afternoon. Unfortunately, while the weather may change, our clothing does not once you’ve decided what to wear when you leave the house in the morning.
The answer: creating a personal heating system, soft and ‘invisible’ enough to integrate into lightweight jackets. When the temperature is nicely warm the light jacket is doing a fine job but when the temperature is heading south the intelligent heating systems kick in keeping you comfy warm.
The team hacked a jacket by integrating various heating zones in arm, chest and back area which can be temperature controlled individually via a Palm Treo cellular phone but could be ported to Windows Mobile devices or iPhone/iPod Touch.
The heating zones can be switched on manually or automatically via temperature sensors throughout the jacket which monitor the preferred temperature setting. The desired temperature can be set for each heating area via a slider on the phones screen.
The user interface displays data like current external air temperature, manual mode status, automatic mode status, desired set temperatures, current zone temperatures as well as current estimated battery life and has a warning at 50% battery life to suggest entering “econo-mode” where the jacket would set temperatures automatically to 65 degrees to preserve battery life.
The personal climate regulating system is build around a LilyPad Arduino which is connected via a d-sub connection to the temperature sensors and the heating elements. The PDA is connected to the LilyPad through a custom cable that plugs right in to the output port of the PDA. The e-textile heating components used are sponsored from Gerbing, a Seattle based company specialized in heated clothing.
The whole system is called ‘Climate Wear‘, a great concept design to address a real world, often annoying problem many people face during the change of seasons in certain areas on our planet.
The team around Chris envisions a system optimization for a more seamless integration into clothing but they also want to keep the system ‘movable’ to reuse the smart part of this heated jacket when consumer buy a newer style of a ‘Climate Wear’ ready jacket.
Can one of the outdoor apparel brands pick this up and have it ready for next autumn? I love the idea to control my jackets’ temperature via an iPhone App.