Motion-Tracking Heaters Warm Individuals As They Move Through Buildings

Motion-Tracking Heaters Warm Individuals As They Move Through Buildings

'Local Warming' is a research project by MIT that dynamically controls heating in real-time.

Emma Hutchings
  • 16 june 2014

MIT Senseable City Laboratory has developed a research project called ‘Local Warming’, which dynamically controls highly localized heating to put the heat exactly where people are. Using wi-fi motion-tracking to find out the location of people inside a building and ensure they keep warm, it works in real-time to instantly send data to heat-radiating bulbs installed in a system that can be mounted on the ceiling.

Infrared bulbs fitted in a panel focus the heat directly onto individuals, rather than wasting it by warming an entire room. The space they occupy is heated while the area around them remains as it was.


MIT Senseable City Lab conducted research which found a dramatic lack of correlation between building occupancy and the energy consumption of heating systems. Commercial buildings alone account for over 20% of U.S. energy consumption, so there is an opportunity to conserve energy through the use of dynamically controlled localized heating systems such as Local Warming. A shift in climate control strategy towards occupant-localized heating could help drastically improve heating efficiency.


Direct and localized warmth is provided through the use of motion sensing and autonomous control. The heat from the infrared bulbs follows people’s movement so they stay comfortably warm in an otherwise cold environment. This method avoids the inefficiencies of ambient heating and conserves energy.

Local Warming is a smart, data-driven and personalized form of climate control. It explores a vision for the future of heating systems, opening up the possibility for new ways of keeping people warm that are highly efficient, dynamic and intelligent.

The research team at MIT Senseable City Lab are considering whether to continue developing Local Warming in an academic setting or launch it as a startup. As it currently only emits and controls heat, they are also exploring ways to improve cooling within buildings. A system like this which also offered localized cooling in the summertime would be great for offices, shops and other public buildings. You can check out the focused heating system in the video below:

MIT Senseable City Lab

[h/t] Forbes

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