I’ve always been interested in EMF, and this prototype caught my eye on UW Today. This new wearable by researchers at University of Washington uses EMI (electromagnetic interference) signatures to track device usage. It’s called MagnifiSense and the idea is that a user would be able to sense devices and vehicles used throughout the day. The wearable uses magneto inductive sensors to differentiate between radiation patterns in electrical circuits of consumer products. The study considered instrumenting the environment vs. instrumenting the individual. Think of some of the smart appliances you may have in your home now that are able to monitor your energy use. They often cost more than the non tracking variety and they may be tricky to set up. With a wearable, you don’t need every appliance to be smart and you have the benefit of knowing who is using the appliance.
The first ideal use is for helping reduce one’s carbon footprint. By looking at all devices used during the day, patterns would become evident, as well as methods for cutting back. What if everyone’s energy saving became gamified? It would be like a FitBit for planet Earth. Another good use is healthcare, especially for older people where you may want to track their activities to see if they are accomplishing the tasks they set out to do during the day. For those with EMF sensitivity, this may even be a wearable that gives a clearer picture of potential hazards in the environment.
Not only did the researchers evaluate the best type of sensors to keep power consumption low, but they also developed signal processing and machine learning algorithms to help with identifying different devices. So far their band is testing well.
In a 24-hour test in which a single user did everything from read on a laptop to cook dinner and take a bus ride, the system correctly identified 25 out of 29 interactions with various devices and vehicles.
The next step will be to create a smaller band and work on getting a wider range of devices identified. It’s something that could even end up in a smartwatch, so check out the research paper. You may want to peek at the other great sensing projects going on at the university’s Ubicomplab, too. If you are interested in carbon footprint and sensing, you should take a look at our Tweet-a-watt learning guide. It’s a hack for the Kill-A-Watt system that will enable you to collect data wirelessly from your rooms so you can figure out a plan of energy savings. Be safe and have fun learning about energy consumption.
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