‘Coolbit’ Device Tracks How Climate Affects User Health
Scientists have designed a Fitbit-like wearable device that can track how a person's health is affected by the immediate climate, and help users create personalised 'heat safe routes' for their activities.
The device can create a personalised comfort model for each wearer, as well as crowdsourcing environmental data in the city in real-time, according to Negin Nazarian of University of New South Wales in Australia.
"We have added some sensors to the Fitbit watches that get information from air temperature and humidity, but also from the physiological response of the individual in that environment, such as your heart rate, your skin temperature, and your skin humidity," said Nazarian, who led the Project Coolbit together with Clayton Miller, of National University of Singapore and the Fitbit Research Algorithm Team in San Francisco.
"This type of thermal comfort and stress feedback is traditionally done with formal and tedious surveys," she said.
"With our app, we can control when, where and how often subtle comfort questions are asked," she added.
"So if your wearable already knows your personal comfort model, it knows your preference of the environment, the type of activities you like and some information about your physiological response," Nazarian said.
"It also knows, based on the environmental information that other parties may give about the cities, the climate of the city," she added.
"Then it can recommend to you a route that would be heat safe where you can do a certain activity, such as running, or it may tell you that it's not safe to run," she said.
According to the researchers, one of the main challenges of urban climate is urban overheating. All around the world, urban areas are hotter than the less developed and rural areas surrounding them.
"On top of that, extreme events led by climate change, such as heatwaves, are affecting the health and economy in cities around the world," said Nazarian.
Deaths due to heat waves are often called 'silent deaths', she said, "because if someone goes to a hospital and complains about chest pain, it's probably noted as cardiovascular disease and not what has triggered that chest pain, which might be the heat."
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