Feeling too hot this summer? Why not download something cool?
What if you could download heat and cold via the internet? Not just a weather forecast, but the actual ability to feel the warmth of summer or the chill of a winter wind? Michael Björn believes we might be about to enter an era of personalized and digitally controlled microclimates.
Here is a prediction. Summer this year will be very hot. I’m basing this on the fact that we just had the hottest May since global statistic started to be collected in 1980. Oh, and April this year was the hottest April on record (although April 2016 was just as hot). As if that wasn’t enough, the 2020s are projected to be the hottest decade ever.
This may sound counterintuitive given that the global lockdown following on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic has massively reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, we are still emitting CO2, albeit on a lower level, meaning that the concentration keeps going up. In fact, we reached an average of 417 parts per million in May. Not only is this the highest level in human history – indications are that this is the highest level during the last three million years.
Heat people not places
So, the heat is on – and so are the air conditioners. In fact, air conditioners are becoming almost as common as smart phones. But the more we use them, the hotter it gets, since they draw a lot of power. In fact, they already represent 10 percent of all global electricity consumption and are set to take up almost 13 percent of global energy use spread over a projected 5.6 billion devices by the middle of this century.
An inherent weakness with air conditioners is that they cool down places, not people. Sometimes that might be a good thing, but quite often, it means that all the cold you’ve generated not only hurts the climate, but your wallet too.
When you leave your room, your house, or even your car, all that pleasant cool air you have paid so dearly for will just sit there and slowly evaporate for no good use at all. And according to Murphy’s Law, temperatures will have reached their peak just moments before you are back again, forcing you to cool everything all the way down again.
So, in many cases, it would be better if the cold could be focused directly on me as a person, and not wasted on places.
The emergence of wearable microclimates?
In our research relating to the Internet of Senses, as many as 69 percent of early adopters of consumer tech expected to see the emergence of wearable devices that could make them feel cool when it’s hot outside to be available by 2030.
But sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. Sony has already successfully crowdfunded a wearable air conditioner. Their surprisingly small device fits in a specially designed pocket between your shoulder blades and can cool you by up to 13 degrees Celsius with a battery that lasts a whole day and should allegedly already be shipping to backers. Cool, indeed!
But what if you could also transmit cold via the internet? 47 percent of respondents in our study expected that to be doable by 2030.
It turns out, this is already being tested in a research project at the University of Chicago, where odorless chemicals that stimulate nerves in people’s noses, to create feelings of being hot and cold, can be emitted via a VR headset. These feelings are then enhanced using other sensory experiences, such as visuals of a snowy landscape and the sound of a cold wind.
This could obviously be enhanced even further by adding micro-coolers to your VR headset to simulate cold wind, or a cold mist on your face; or even to spray the actual smell of cold, that ozone tinged freshness, that is so familiar at least to Scandinavians like me.
Respondents in our study also believed they will be able to feel things beyond their human senses; 59 percent foresee wearables by 2030 that let us feel the oncoming weather, including heat waves. That would give them ample time to tune in to their virtually air-conditioned personal spaces.
Imagine if all you needed to keep cool on an exceedingly hot summer day was to log on to the internet with all your senses!
Explore our 10 Hot Consumer Trends 2030 report to find out how the internet of senses is shaping consumer expectations.
Browse our other ConsumerLab reports that cover the future of technology.