This carbon footprint-tracking tech is coming to a wearable near you

MagnifiSense shows you how much energy you've used
Track your carbon footprint with wearables

You left the lights on again. Everyone knows it was you but there's no proof. Until now. Researchers at the University of Washington are working on technology that knows what appliances, kitchen gadgets and even cars and buses you are using by tracking the electromagnetic radiation emitted by everyday devices.

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Its MagnifiSense prototype is a wearable band, designed to be worn on the wrist, housing sensors which can correctly identify light dimmers, laptops, microwaves, electric toothbrushes, remote controls and blenders.

The idea is that it can be used to track your personal footprint across home devices and transport, help to personalise your smart home without buying new tech with the likes of face recognition or help in nursing homes.

In a test run with 12 devices, MagnifiSense was 94% accurate at tracking an individual's interactions with technology after a one-time calibration and a still impressive 83% accurate without. Machine learning algorithms and signal processing help to match the patterns to each device.

But the ultimate aim of the team isn't to build yet another wearable for us to consider wearing. Instead it plans to integrate the technology into existing smartwatches and smart bands.

Who consumed what

"Right now, we can know that lights are 20% of your energy use. With this, we divvy it up and say who consumed that energy," said Shwetak Patel, professor of computer science and engineering and director of the Ubicomp lab. "We think it could be integrated into any wrist-sized product. The next steps are really to look at what other devices we can detect and work on a prototype that's wearable."

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If smartphones and smartwatches were to get a minor update in the range of magnetic sensors used, the researchers believe the tech could be added by a software upgrade. In other words, a simple app could be used to identify you and your use of any devices, even ones in the office rather than your home, without the need for voice or face recognition. The other benefit is that such a a device could be taken off or disconnected, helping to dissuade privacy concerns.

With more and more people trying to reconcile their love of innovative tech with leading a more eco-friendly life, MagnifiSense could work together with smart thermostats, light bulbs and appliances to minimise waste and help us see our bad habits in cold, hard stats so we can't ignore them.

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