Education, Healthcare, Lighting Industry, News, Residential

A device that follows you by day and zaps you with corrective light by night

Circadian sleuth: Imagine this sort of thing miniaturised and slung around your neck all day long to track your movements in the cold North. That gives you an idea of how the Daysimeter might work.

Was today a blur? Can’t quite remember where you went, what dark shadows you dipped in and out of? Not sure if you even saw the light?

If so, rest assured that this never has to happen to you again. But only if you agree to wear an electronic tag developed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Enough facetiousness from us. We’re not talking about any shady underworlds, lives of depravity, or dubious dens of iniquity.

We’re talking literally about light. What else would you expect from a website called Lux? Light detection and correction and its importance to human health, in this case.

According to a story by the BBC, Rensselaer has come up with a means to ensure that the denizens of far northern climes in Sweden and similar latitudes expose themselves to enough proper light to maintain their mental and physical well-being during the dreary days of winter, when the sun might emerge for less than an hour.

The premise is that people need exposure to a certain amount of sunlight to keep their circadian rhythms in order, lest nasty things set in such as depression.

‘Disruption of a regular, daily pattern of light and dark can lead to poor sleep, fatigue and decreased performance,’ says Prof Mariana Figueiro of Rensselaer’s Lighting Research Center. ‘It can also contribute to poor health ranging from obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease to certain forms of cancer.’

With sunlight being in short supply in places like the far north of Sweden, scientists and tinkerers of all sorts have long experimented with light boxes and similar methods to make up the difference. For instance, a high school in Umea, Sweden is blasting classes with intense light to help keep students alert, motivated and achieving.

Rensselaer, based in Troy, NY,  is now taking the concept to a new level that involves intelligent controls, sensors and a personal data collection device worn around the neck or as a bracelet, known as a Daysimeter. Prof Figueiro describes it as ‘a personal light and activity sensor.’

The Daysimeter records how much sunlight has hit you over the course of your day. Figueiro and her team refer to the data as ‘circadian light-dark patterns.’ Arrive at home that night, and that information transmits to a hub, which ascertains exactly what you need: No, not a stiff drink, but an extra dose of light, which the hub then instructs your home’s smart lamps to deliver.

Or maybe you were lucky enough to have absorbed your full quota of light earlier in the day, in which case the hub would leave you alone to have that drink after all, or jump in the sauna, or heck, even go for some moonlight cross-country skiing or something.

It’s part of a ‘healthy homes’ project involving the Swedish governement.

As we have commented before at Lux, it’s good to see the science of light-for-people advance. The Rensselaer system is promising.

But at the same time, we wonder about the privacy implications of a personal tag that follows you around all day long. This experiment in the dark, frosty north of Sweden could be a notable step forward in human well-being. Or it could turn into the spy that came in from the cold.

Photo is from Jaroslav Moravcik via Shutterstock

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