A wearable air conditioner the size of an iPhone could make your summers less sweaty


It's hot outside and if the troubling trends of climate change continue, it's only going to get hotter. That means we're going to need to find new ways to keep cool. Creators on Sony's crowdfunding platform have an idea that just might make the relentless heat of summer more bearable: a personal, wearable air conditioner that silently cools you under your clothes.

The cooling device is called the Reon Pocket, and it operates with a pretty simple premise that produces impressive results. The miniature cooling device is about the size of a small smartphone like the iPhone SE and sits in the pocket of a T-shirt, where it is housed just below the back of the wearer's neck. From there, instead of actually cooling the air the way your typical air conditioner would, the Reon Pocket uses a well-known thermoelectric effect known as the Peltier effect, to keep the person wearing it cool. To do that, it absorbs heat from your body using an electric current and converts it to cooler temperatures. The process results in a cooling effect that requires no chemicals, no freezing an ice pack, no drips or leakage and no loud fans. Instead, the device just sits on your back, silently cooling you down by as much as 23 degrees Fahrenheit — or heating you up by up to 14 degrees if you're too chilly.

Because of the cooling technology used by the Reon Pocket, users will have a considerable amount of control over the temperature they want to set for themselves. The device will connect to smartphones via Bluetooth and will pair up with an app that gives the wearer the ability to adjust the temperature on the fly. Sony says to start, the Reon Pocket will be entirely manually controlled, which means you'll have to adjust the temperature every time you come in from the heat and no longer need a personal breeze on your back. The company claims that it is planning to create an automatic mode that will adjust with the temperature around the wearer, but that won't be available until later.

There are some downsides to the Reon Pocket. For one, the battery life. While Sony initially claimed it expected up to 24 hours of battery life on the device, that's not quite a correct characterization of how the device will operate. As Engadget pointed out, the Bluetooth connection will be active for 24 hours on a single charge, but the cooling aspect of the device will only operate in small bursts, operating for a total of two hours before requiring a recharge. Then there's the fact that the Reon Pocket will initially only be available in Japan. That's not to say it won't eventually make its way to other markets, but at least to start it will be available only in Sony's home region. Given the fact the device has garnered a considerable amount of attention and racked up more than 4,200 backers who have pledged 69,168,000 Yen (about $636,000) to make the Reon Pocket a reality, it's safe to assume that if it's a success, Sony will try to get it to as many people as possible.

Creations like the Reon Pockets will become increasingly valuable and necessary if our temperatures around the world keep rising. It's been an absolutely scorching summer, with this June registering as the hottest June ever recorded. Scientists are warning that temperatures are only likely to rise in coming years, and a recent study found in some regions of the world, we're approaching levels of heat that push the human body to its thermal limits. In the near future, finding new and novel ways to keep cool as the temperatures increase might not just be a matter of convenience and comfort but of necessity.