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Flux

A modular IoT system of temperature monitoring and regulating wearables for blue collar industry workers.

Discipline

Industrial Design,

User Experience, Interface Design

Duration

Team

10 Weeks

Solo

Collaborator

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Exposure to environmental heat led to 37 work-related deaths and 2,830 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work in 2015.”

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The Problem

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) accident records also contain summaries of thousands of temperature-related incidents: lumberjacks passing away from hypothermia, roofers suffering from heart attacks due to heat exhaustion, etc.

 
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Impacted Industries

Blue collar jobs are typically classified as involving manual labor and compensation by an hourly wage. Some fields that fall into this category include construction, manufacturing, maintenance, and mining.

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Workplace Requirements

  • work in direct sunlight (adds up to 15 degrees to heat index)

  • work in variable weather / climates

  • perform prolonged or strenuous work

  • wear heavy protective clothing or impermeable suits

  • prolonged exposure to heat-generating appliances

Potential Risks

  • heat stroke

  • heat exhaustion

  • heat cramps

  • heat syncope

  • heat rash

  • rhabdomyolysis

  • hypothermia

  • frostbite

  • trench foot

The Current System

“Under OSHA Law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards.”

This includes protecting workers from extreme temperatures.

Following OSHA guidelines, an employer should establish a “complete heat illness prevention program”:

  • provide workers with water, rest, and shade

  • allow workers to gradually acclimate to heat

  • plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention

  • monitor workers for signs of illness

However, there is no standard for how an employer should monitor or document this information.

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For Employers / Managers

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no standard device or monitoring / documentation practices

Extech Heat Watch

  • heat, humidity, heat index, and timing functions

  • no data logging function

  • small, portable

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Thermal Cameras

  • visualize and measure worker body heat

  • no data logging function

  • likely not in constant use

> cannot monitor workers at different sites

> no documentation function

For Workers

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besides personal protective gear + high-vis vest, no standard uniform

Evaporative Cooling Bandana

  • simple, inexpensive

  • easy to wear under other gear

  • not effective for whole body

> no one way to regulate both extremes

> inflexible, limited by granularity

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Thermoelectric Gear

  • individual components

  • battery powered

  • limiting / not adaptable

User Personas

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Name

Steve

Age

38

Occupation

Construction Worker

Location

Seattle, WA

Behaviors

  • loads and unloads materials, tools, and equipment

  • assists transport and operation of heavy machinery and equipment

Pain Points

  • extreme, sometimes unexpected temperature / weather variation

  • dresses warmly for early morning start, but ends up overheating later

  • unsure when / at what point physical discomfort requires attention

Name

Tom

Age

43

Occupation

Project Manager

Location

Seattle, WA

Behaviors

  • manages several sites at once

  • uses different software and connected devices to monitor information (e.g. Extech 42270)

Pain Points

  • many logistical metrics to track; time-consuming and overwhelming

  • difficult to monitor health / safety of individual workers

lack of temperature monitoring, regulation, and awareness practices at job sites + variable climate conditions put blue collar workers at greater risk for temperature-related illnesses.

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We should build...

a versatile product for blue collar industry workers to easily regulate their body temperatures while working in harsh, variable climates.

a system for blue collar industry employers to efficiently monitor and document workers’ body temperatures to ensure workplace safety.

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Relevant Technology

Polyimide Thin-Film Heating Element

  • ultra-thin, super flexible

  • resistant to extreme temperatures, wear, and corrosion

  • can be any shape with uniform watt density

  • more even heat distribution than wire-element heaters

  • temperatures up to ~130°F

OR Peltier Thermoelectric Plates

  • can transmit both heating and cooling

  • research is currently being done to integrate into wearables

  • fairly thin, flexible

  • temperatures ~40°F lower than ambient

Printed Thermistors

  • small, ultra-thin, super flexible

  • can be highly sensitive

  • Bluetooth / wireless connection to communicate monitored data

  • ultralow power consumption

7.4-Volt Lithium-Ion Battery

  • 2.2 Ah ~ 5.2 Ah

  • rechargeable

  • lightweight

  • currently used in existing heating jackets

  • various thicknesses, with as thin as ~8mm possible for 2.2 Ah

  • active research and development in battery size reduction

Adhesive Back Hook & Loop Fasteners

  • lightweight, easy to use

  • machine washable

  • allows electronic components to attach to any clothing or gear

  • allows electronic components to be removable

The Concept

A system of temperature monitoring and regulation using modular wearable units (“patches”) connected to a mobile app.

Components

  • power bank

  • power distribution / central unit

  • additional temperature regulation patch units to expand surface area coverage

  • printed temperature sensors (built into patches)

  • Velcro adhesive backs for patches

  • app for data storage and temperature control

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Formal Development

Inspiration

  • shapes that conform to body curvature

  • and / or, geometric tessellation patterns

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Sketches

  • organic shapes to better fit body and equipment

  • X shapes don't indicate modularity

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  • hexagonal central unit

    • allows for multiple connections​

    • larger area for power bank

  • triangular additional patches

    • smaller surface area fits well on smaller body parts like hands

    • however, need more units to cover more surface area

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It’s an early morning for Steve.

A Day in Steve's Life

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He worries about feeling cold at the construction site.

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He finds the package and then syncs the central unit to the mobile app.

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However, he remembers that he has FLUX.

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At the construction site, he remains warm thanks to the regulator.

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He attaches them to his shirt and his hard hat.

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He then attaches additional units to cover more surface area.

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Afterwards, he sticks the Velcro-backed unit to the inside of his work clothes.

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As time passes, the weather turns from cold and cloudy to sunny.

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The afternoon sun causes Steve to feel uncomfortably warm.

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FLUX responds to this change in temperature by cooling Steve’s body.

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Steve can now work comfortably throughout the entire day.

Data Flow

For Workers

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For Employers / Managers

 
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FLUX

a modular system of temperature
monitoring and regulating wearables

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Adjustable Coverage

FLUX comes with 6 central units to cover key points on your body for temperature regulation: core / chest, hands, feet, and head

Along with the central units, at least 6 additional patch units would be supplied to adjust surface area coverage.

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A central unit has 6 connection points along its perimeter for additional patch units.

Each patch unit has one ribbon cable connector and ports on the remaining sides for additional unit connections.

Variable Configurations

Modular units cover user-specified locations and allow variation in the amount of surface area covered for completely customizable heating / cooling

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Components

1 - bottom fabric layer w/ Velcro

- elastomer shell latticed for flexibility

3 - rechargeable power bank w/ case

4 - circuit board

5 - thin film heating element

6 - film with printed thermistors

7 - top fabric layer, interfaces with skin

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Small, Thin, Flexible

By using thin film technology, FLUX units can be made extremely thin and small to fit comfortably under clothes and gear.

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The elastomer containment piece's lattice pattern maximizes the flexibility and reach of each unit, allowing FLUX to move with the wearer.

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CMF Recommendations

Shell Bodies

  • 2 shot injection molded hard plastic (ABS) and elastomer (silicone) shells

    • black ABS, Hex #242424

    • grey silicone, Hex #E1E5EE

Fabric Layer

  • cotton or similar

  • soft, durable, absorbent, and breathable

    • main body in grey Hex #E1E5EE

    • accent color: black Hex #242424; orange Hex #FF6144; or blue Hex #586BA4

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