Hands-on with Silent Cicada’s ‘air-con in a watch’

Silent Cicada’s line of watches uses an advanced cooling plate placed against the wrist to reduce the temperature of the blood flow. ST PHOTO: OSMOND CHIA

LAS VEGAS – If you often groan amid Singapore’s sweltering temperatures, a start-up in the Republic has built special watches that could come in handy, with the aim to help users beat the heat.

Touted as a “personal air-conditioner” on the wrist, Silent Cicada’s line of watches, which start at $200, use an advanced cooling plate placed against the wrist to reduce blood flow temperature.

The wrist has a higher concentration of veins, which causes the area to be more sensitive to users, influencing their perceived temperature, Silent Cicada founder Jing Che said.

The company is among those showcasing tech innovations at the Consumer Electronics Show 2024 to investors, distributors and industry players in Las Vegas from Jan 9 to 12.

Explaining how it works, Mr Che said the case of the watch houses a cooling plate that sits underneath a miniature fan.

“This fan is not to blow wind towards the user,” he said. “Instead, it is to take the heat away from the cooling plate.”

The device uses a thermal-electric semiconductor plate – a small module that transfers heat from one side of the unit to the other side of the plate, creating a cooling effect on the skin.

“It is just enough to let the user feel a cooling sensation,” Mr Che said, adding that the slight dip in temperature is sufficient for users to feel more comfortable as the human body is extremely sensitive to fluctuations.

I tested the watch in a brief hands-on session. Strapping it on, it was cold to the touch as it came into contact with my wrist. Even though I sat in an air-conditioned room, the watch struck me as the coolest object on my body.

It is even more effective if worn on the flip side of the wrist, said Mr Che, as more veins are found there.

One has to wonder whether this is a placebo effect. But like the once-popular power balance wristbands that claimed to improve athletic performance, the perceived drop in temperature from Silent Cicada’s watches could be convincing enough.

When asked about the technology’s potential, Ms Lydia Law, co-director of the Heat Resilience and Performance Centre at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, told The Straits Times that the gadget may have the potential to enhance comfort in users, as long as they are not under physical exertion, similar to neck-cooling fan devices.

The centre studies the effects of heat on humans and develops tools to help build people’s resilience to heat.

But it is unlikely that the device can cool blood and reduce body temperature, said Ms Law, who also raised concerns that the exposed area is small and the cold surface may cause veins to constrict.

“It is important to ensure the right cooling (methods) are used for the right context and application,” she added.

Silent Cicada’s line of watches uses a thermal-electric semiconductor plate, a small module that transfers heat from one side of the unit to the other side of the plate, creating a cooling sensation on the skin. ST PHOTO: OSMOND CHIA

Mr Che advised users to avoid wearing the watch during intense exercise, which the device was not designed for, as the body generates way more heat than the small watch is able to cool during such sessions.

In early tests of the watches conducted by the firm, the average perceived temperature among 20 participants was 0.875 deg C lower than the actual temperature.

The firm is supported by researchers from Singapore University of Technology and Design and Nanyang Technological University, and is in talks with academic researchers to study how the user’s brain perceives temperature while wearing such devices, Mr Che said.

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