Hitachi's Air Conditioner Detects Human Movements to Adjust Air Flow

Sep 8, 2012
Tetsuro Orihata, Nikkei Monozukuri
The "Stainless Clean Shirokuma-kun S series" air conditioner
The "Stainless Clean Shirokuma-kun S series" air conditioner
[Click to enlarge image]
Its camera is located in the red rectangle.
Its camera is located in the red rectangle.
[Click to enlarge image]
An enlarged picture of the camera
An enlarged picture of the camera
[Click to enlarge image]

Hitachi Appliances Inc will start to release eight models of the "Stainless Clean Shirokuma-kun S series" room air conditioner, whose operation can be optimized based on the locations of people and their amounts of activity, in late October 2012.

The air conditioner is capable of adjusting the volume and direction of air flow by analysing the image from the camera attached to the bottom center of it. The camera's field of view is 150° wide and 7m deep. Based on the image from the camera, the air conditioner detects people entering and exiting the room, the number of people in the room and their locations and amounts of activity.

As a result, (1) an operation in accordance with the number of people in the room, (2) operation in accordance with each person's amount of activity and (3) air flow control in accordance with the locations of people were realized. For example, when the air conditioner is warming the room and the number of people in the room increases, the first function predicts a temperature increase due to the increase and lowers output power.

When Hitachi Appliances' existing air conditioners are used as heaters, their output powers are decided based on people whose amounts of activity are large. As a result, people with low amounts of activity often feel cold. The second function enables to send more warm air to people whose amounts of activity are small by adjusting the temperature and direction of air based on each person's amount of activity estimated from the image from the camera.

The third function was developed to send air to a person who is cooking in the kitchen. By combining behavior pattern data collected by taking many pictures of kitchens and video taken by the air conditioner's camera, it detects people in the kitchen and adjusts the volume and direction of air flow to send more air to the kitchen. Those functions can be turned on/off by pressing a button on the remote of the air conditioner.

The cooling capabilities of the eight models range from 2.2k to 7.1kW. And their prices are expected to be ¥210,000-340,000 (US$2,662-4,310).