Smart Alec™

Let’s Destress

The Smart Alec is an application for a smartwatch that will control the level of stress the wearer endures. The possibility exists for the Smart Alec to stand alone as its own wearable biometric device, similar to a FitBit. For people all around the globe, stress is a major problem in everyday life. Whether it is from school, work, or social life, everyone occasionally experiences high levels of stress. High levels of stress can lead to many problems in a person’s life including panic attacks, binge eating or drinking, anxiety, and many more complications that also precipitate more stress. When a person’s stress is reduced, they begin to think more clearly and become much more productive. The Smart Alec stands alone from the FitBit and “smart home” software in that it links biometrics with the automated home concept.

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There are three main types of stress: acute, episodic and chronic. Acute Stress is the stress that stems from short term problems. Say you had to clean your house, do laundry, had a big presentation at work and had to pick up your kid from school all due on the same day. The overwhelming feeling that one would get from this pile of work would be acute stress. Acute stress usually leads to anger, anxiety, and headaches. Since acute stress is a result of short term problems, this is the most common type of stress people experience.(

Episodic stress is similar to acute stress in that it is a result of short term problems. Episodic stress is the stress that comes from repeat occurrences of acute stress. This type of stress is often suffered by people who juggle loads of obligations and responsibility. When someone has simply too much going on to meet the necessary deadlines of their countless activities, (*cough* junior spring…) they experience episodic stress. This type of stress can foster bad moods, pessimism, and in extreme cases, anxiety/personality disorders. However, since the level of stress is somewhat constant, someone who experiences episodic stress can be oblivious to their constant state of tension.

Chronic stress results from long term problems; it develops from a situational problem that a person often feels is not possible to escape. For example, chronic stress could be a result of early childhood trauma or war-time experiences. The issue with traumatic stress is that over time, the victim accepts it as normal. Extreme cases of chronic stress are often diagnosed as Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD), or manifest in other anxiety disorders or depression.

There have been many scientific studies conducted to find the most effective ways to reduce stress. In one experiment, a two group study was conducted to determine the affect of lavender oil as a stress reducer. The study concluded that Lavender aromatherapy does in fact significantly decrease a person’s stress (Kim, 2011). Studies were also conducted on the effectiveness of music to reduce stress. These studies showed that light sounding music controls heart functions as well as triggers biochemical stress-reducing effects (Cervellin, 2011). As for the effect of room lighting on stress relief, it has been proved that different intensities of light will have a different affect on a person’s mood. For example, a bright light will make the body think of sunlight and consequently put someone in a better mood. On the other hand, “soft” light dims and diffuses light to reduce shadows and provides a more relaxing atmosphere, thus providing a stress reducing environment.

The Smart Alec is an application that will be aimed to reduce a person’s stress, no matter what the cause. When a person becomes stressed, the body reacts in ways that help the person indicate that they are stressed. For example person’s pulse will elevate, they will sweat, and tend to breath in a more shallow, rapid manner.

Why Does it Need Control?

External stress control is potentially valuable, as even if one knows they are stressed, it doesn’t always help them calm down and destress. This is where the Smart Alec comes in. Unlike your body solely letting you know or not letting you know that you are stressed out, the Smart Alec will notice that you are stressed out and in return make changes to your surroundings to help bring down your level of stress. If a person’s stress level is decreasing at times when they become stressed, any of these three types of stress can be managed and reduced, ultimately resulting in an improvement in a person’s overall happiness, productivity and quality of life.

With the Smart Alec a user’s stress levels seek to be controlled to eliminate as much stress from their life as possible. Heart rate, perspiration levels, and elevation in temperature are all indicators of stress that can be used to determine if a user is stressed out. Using biometric indicators on the watch, the user’s watch will be able to determine if they are stressed out and change their environment accordingly.

Indicators of Stress (Biometrics)

MIT researchers are developing a wrist sensor that tracks a user’s perspiration and temperature changes. This technology provides a real-time tracking of the user’s moisture level and temperature to measure when the user experiences stress, rather than relying on the patient’s memory like a psychologist or other therapist. This device, along with other similar applications to the Smart Alec, will actually be able to determine the exact moment a person experiences stress and potentially be able to determine what things in that person’s life actually cause stress. Granted, the wearer would have to have some recollection of what they were doing at the moment their sensor detected stress signals.

The control of this variable is essential because it is a measure of how much stress a person is experiencing. The Smart Alec is an app that links a smartwatch with the user’s home in order to reduce stress by taking biometric readings from the watch and using it to adjust the user’s home in order to create a stress-relieving environment. The entire point of the app is to reduce stress by linking the home with the biometrics.

Stress is something that affects everyone and reducing this can help mitigate anxiety and mental illness in the general population. Everyone comes home from work beaming, glowing about what a wonderful day they had and when they see their absolutely wonderful family, they get even happier, right? Nah. Work is stressful, raising a family is hard, and being a Jets fan just sucks. When a person gets home from a long day, vegging out watching TV, drinking a beer (or six), are all common ways to destress. But what if your house helped you destress too? With the Smart Alec, a user’s home will be able to control the mood lighting, ambient white noise, and even dispense soothing herbal vapors or incense within the house. This will reduce the stress of the user while still allowing them to be productive, even if the user is unaware of their elevated stress.

A Relaxing Room

In this application, the sounds, mood lighting, and smells within the house will be manipulated. Mood lighting can have a calming effect on the user. The sounds within the house will be calming sounds, such as a rain-forest, the ocean, or other ambient white noise. Smells can also provide a sense of relaxation that would be beneficial to the user. These make sense to control because they have a direct effect on a person’s stress levels. If a house were to already have mood lighting going, calming sounds, and a nice smell when a stressed out person walks in, it would greatly help to reduce their stress from the moment they walk inside the house.

The method that will be used is a step method. The variable being controlled is the body’s heart rate, all of which increase with stress. On average, a person’s average resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute. However, when a person experiences high levels of stress and anxiety, their heart will beat over 100 beats per minute or higher depending on the person (Bowles, 2013). To keep the heart rate under control, the watch will monitor when a person’s resting heart rate is significantly above their average resting heart rate and adjust the lighting, sounds and smells in the room to relax the user and thus decrease their heart rate back to its average range. The app’s purpose is also to keep the person focused on their current task at times of high stress, not simply to sedate them. Thus, when heart rate dips to a level that indicates the wearer has remained motionless for a prolonged period of time, or is bordering on sleep, the control scheme can reduce the calming lighting in favor of light that is more conducive to productivity (but never fluorescent, gross).

The first aspect of the room that would change is the lighting of the room. Prior to first use of the application, a calibration will be performed to determine the brightness level and color that will be best for a person’s stress level. If the app notices an increase in the resting heart rate, the lights in the room will dim to a level that corresponds with the user’s destressing light intensity. If the change in brightness does not change the user’s stress level back to its relaxed level, a second resort will come into effect. This is where the relaxing sounds come in. Out of the speakers in the room, the user will then hear nature sounds, classical music, or some Jack Johnson to help control their heart rate. Lastly, if the past two changes to the room do not work, relaxing smells, straight out of the Yankee Candle catalog, will be released into the room.

What Can Happen?

The Smart Alec has potential to mitigate the negative effects that stress has on the working class 9 to 5 guy/gal. We all get stressed out sometimes. When it is an episodic stress, we just get used to feeling tense. When it’s acute, we’re more likely to be aware of it, but what can we do about it? We try meditation or other breathing exercises, we take a break and watch some Netflix (yeah, just ONE episode), or we succumb to our vices and throw back a few too many beers. But it doesn’t have to be like this. What if your house could help you destress? Yeah your girlfriend gives good back massages when you’re visibly tense, but she gets stressed out too, man. The Smart Alec can help your whole family at once to take a deep breath, and focus on productivity.

The Smart Alec’s potential is not limited to making life a little easier for the average working adult. Those who experience chronic stress, are predisposed to anxiety, or either raise children on the autism spectrum or are themselves on said spectrum are likely to experience bouts of extreme stress. The Smart Alec will not cure chronic stress, nor will it single-handedly prevent anxiety attacks, but it will help reduce the time that these stress flare-ups will incapacitate the user. On average, a panic attack lasts at least ten minutes, but can also last a significant amount longer (Tidy, 2016). However, if a panic attack lasts three minutes instead of ten thanks to the Smart Alec’s automatic detection of elevated pulse and subsequent dimming of lights to the user’s calibrated settings and introduction of ocean sounds and lavender-scented vapor, it has done its job.

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  1. First off the blog is well written and the memes are entertaining. The device being discussed in this article seems to have very practical aspects of use in everyday stress management. Personally I don’t see myself using such a device now or in the future, but I can see how there would be a significant market to explore for the Smart Alec. The Smart Alec would definitely fill a hole that currently exists in wearable technology market.
    The control scheme, while could be more detailed, touches upon most of the aspects of a controlled process. The manipulated variable being the room settings, and the controlled variable being the person’s stress level. The one thing that could have been discussed in further detail could be any disturbance variables. I could see a few problems in which the stress reducing techniques could increase the stress level of the user. For example, I could imagine an argument between a couple getting even more heated as the lights are dimmed and “Jack Johnson” comes on to the speaker system… Fixing this would be as easy as an off switch on the device.
    I could definitely see this being a successful device in today’s age of wearable technology. Some complications I could see is the assumption that the person already has a speaker system for their house or even that they have lights that are capable of being dimmed via a smart watch. In addition to this, how would the device tell which room the person is currently residing? So all in all I think this product would become more viable as the average house gets “smarter” relative to the current one.
    Overall a very well written and entertaining blog article regarding a product that could be successful over the next 15-20 years.

  2. The blog itself is a light read that is both entertaining and simple to understand. The way the SmartAlec is explained makes it so anyone could understand the product and the control scheme without the technical background needed to design it. The product itself has the potential to reach a very large, untapped demographic. In today’s society, mental health awareness and mental illnesses are very prominent and the understanding and aid is an area that can be beneficial to many people.
    The control scheme for the SmartAlec is very simple by design, and that benefits the SmartAlec. The manipulated variables are the ambient conditions of the users’ home. The controlled variable is the users’ stress level, determined by measurements of heart rate, perspiration, etc. No discussion of disturbance variables ignores in brightness caused by time of day or changes in the weather. For instance, in the middle of a beautiful spring day with the blinds in the house or apartment open and the lights off, the SmartAlec cannot dim the sun.
    The application of the SmartAlec app for smartwatches is not practical for the struggling, working-class, stressed out citizen. The infrastructure needed to take full advantage of the app requires a home that is fully connected to either Bluetooth or wifi, a feature only available in newer potentially multi-million dollar homes. Even if somebody is living in a new multi-million dollar home and is still having issues with their stress levels, the home’s circuitry still needs to be fashioned with dimmers as opposed to on/off switches. Despite these potentially very expensive infrastructure hurdles that the SmartAlec faces, in a world where technology advances at a break-neck pace the SmartAlec is positioned to be at the forefront of a sector that very much needs innovation.

  3. As I struggle to balance the billion and half homework assignments, projects, and exams that we have as junior ChemEs, I can relate to the motivation behind the invention of the SmartAlec. I think it is important that everyone has a designated “stress-free” area—somewhere where they can distress and just ~relax~. For many people including myself, my house (OK, it’s really just a half of a dorm room) is the place where I like to unwind and catch my breath from my hectic days. Therefore, I think employing a control scheme in this area is a great idea to help mitigate stress within the house. It is obviously impossible to control one’s stress everywhere life takes them, but focusing on one’s home, which is someone’s most personal space, was a great decision.

    I really appreciate the manipulated variables that you have chosen and see a lot opportunities to expand upon them as well. I think personalization will be the key to the success of the SmartAlec; everyone has their favorite scent, soothing sounds, and lighting, so ensuring that this customization is easily applicable will positively impact the user’s experience with the SmartAlec. Another manipulated variable that may be interesting to investigate further is pressure. I know a lot of research has been done studying the calming effects of deep touch pressure for those with autism and ADHD. It may be neat then to equip the SmartAlec with the ability to gently contract in the presence of stress so that pressure is applied to the user’s wrist.

    Although the control variables of heart rate and perspiration are clearly delineated, I think that that disturbance variables may make it very difficult to accurately impose the proposed control schemes. Although increased heart rate and perspiration are results from stress, such a response can also occur due to exercise, excitement, and also maybe just a really warm summer day. I think it will be challenging to design the SmartAlec to respond solely to changes in stress level using the chosen control variables. To help screen out these potential disturbance variables that would affect the efficacy of the control scheme, maybe the SmartAlec could have a simple ON/OFF button so that the user can decide exactly when he/she wants the device to track stress levels.

    Equipping one’s home in order to gain all of the benefits provided by the SmatAlec will be quite costly. Sensors, speakers, and fragrances will need to be added to one’s home. This device would not be accessible to everyone; rather, I believe that the target market would be upper-class adults. Considering the fact that this market niche does have the greatest dispensable income, I think that the SmartAlec has the potential to be a viable product.

    Another application that I think would add to the value of the SmartAlec is the ability to track trends in the user’s stress levels. I know my dad LOVES tracking his daily steps using his Fitbit, and he really enjoys the fact that he is able to compare his results between days, weeks, and even years. Similarly, I think consumers would be interested to see how their stress ebbs and flows throughout different times of day, different months, and different years. Becoming more cognizant of when these peak stresses occur may help people find a healthy way to reduce it in the future.

    When you’re having the Mondayest Wednesday ever like me right now, I know I would love coming home to the SmartAlec. The SmartAlec would be a wonderful addition to my lifestyle to help reduce stress and add some much needed zen to my life.

  4. The idea for creating a device that would be able to recognize when someone is stressed and be able to account for the stress is a very interesting idea. The blog itself is a very easy read and is written so that a wide array of audiences can read it. The language is not too complicated and new ideas are thoroughly explained. The pictures along with the side comments in this blog, such as the comment, “*cough* junior spring…” provided some comical relief and made the blog more interesting to read.
    The Smart Alec process for noticing and elevating stress would be very applicable and could immediately help people who suffer from high levels of stress. I would personally find this device very helpful and I think the overall demand for these Smart Alec devices would be very high.
    The proposed control scheme makes sense but I do not believe that monitoring a person’s heart rate would be an accurate reading of a person’s stress level. Many factors other than stress influence a person’s heart rate. Factors such as genes, aging, regular exercise, medications, and medical conditions also have an effect on a person’s heart rate. I do like the idea that the person’s environment would be changed to account for an increased stress level. Personally, I know that I can get very stressed out and a safe haven away from that stress and worry would be very helpful. I think it would be more convenient if this safe haven was at the place in which the person worked. I know that I am much more relaxed at home than I am at work. Being able to account for and alleviate stress in the work place would be incredibly useful. This blog does not explain possible disturbance variables that could effect this system. One possible disturbance variable could be noise that could be introduced from outside the system, such as police sirens. A variable that could be difficult to manipulate is if there were multiple people in a room. If there are multiple people in a room the Smart Alec could read different levels of stress for these people and try to account for these stresses in multiple ways. While this could help some people it would probably increase the level of stress other people in the room have. A possible solution for this is that the Smart Alec could have an automatic off switch when multiple people have different stresses in the same room.
    I believe that this product would have major societal implications. Personally, I know that I am much more motivated to work hard when I am stressed out. For example, if I was failing a class my overall stress level would be WAY higher than if I had an A. I believe that the stress that accompanies this failing grade would motivate me to work even harder and do better. I personally believe that most people are motivated to do well and work hard due to the stress present in their life. I think that by eliminating stress, people would become even lazier and wouldn’t have as much motivation in life.

  5. This write up was generally explanatory and detailed. As was mentioned, the idea of a stress reliever is one which could be put to use in alleviating stress, which a lot of people face constantly. This idea of a stress relieving biometric watch could even be extended from the basic home to hospital rooms, study rooms, libraries, and could prove useful for not just human, but also pet animals or even zoo animals.

    The first paragraph does a good job of integrating the definition of the Smart Alec and the problem, however, the first sentence was too direct; rather than beginning with what your product is, the introduction should discuss the general problem and then slowly diverge into the idea. The defined parameters for control are body temperature, heart beat rate and perspiration rate. I would like to note that in reality, when I have been stressed, I haven’t noticed a significantly higher heart beat/breathing rate, nor have I observed a significantly higher body temperature. So if claims are made that there’s some changes in these factors, your write up could probably be solidified by quantifying or providing scientifically/experimentally proven average values for the changes in these controlled variables when stress occurs. More details on the principle/method by which the biometric device would measure these controlled variable would be useful, for example, to measure heartbeat, the device could quantify the pulse on the veins located at the wrist. Also, a clear explanation of how exactly a biometric on the wrist would detect perspiration rate could prove useful.

    The idea is a very practical one. The materials to be used in building the concept don’t seem too expensive, and that means cost wouldn’t be a huge deterrent for customers. Another potential manipulated variables in addition to lighting, music and fragrance is meditation; when stress is sensed, the fit bit could give instruction to the user to take a break and meditate. To further improve on this concept, more thought should be focused on extension to unconfined living spaces? For example, have you thought of having a mini-spray on the watch that would spray dilute fragrance into the air for people to breath wherever they are, home or not. Or calming music that just pops off the biometric device itself when it senses stress? These could be potential avenues for improvement.

  6. To begin, this blog article was, on the whole, a well written and entertaining read. The images chosen helped to make your points, and it all flowed together nicely. That being said, I do have mixed feelings about the application as a whole. Managing stress, is, of course, important, but I’m not sure that the way you’ve gone about it is particularly effective. On the one hand, the market for wearable technology is huge. Regardless of whether the product works or not, you’d certainly have a massive market to sell a purported technological solution to episodic stress. On the other hand, however, this seems like a solution that would only work under very specific conditions, namely, when you are in the area where you have the special lights, speakers, and aromatherapy is set up. This means that this product probably won’t be helping you most of them time when you’re in situations that are highly stressful. I personally can’t see myself using it, if only because as a college student I don’t have the budget to try and set anything up, and most of my stress comes during the day in classes where I wouldn’t have access to the setup anyway. I could see someone with specific needs, like anxiety, wanting to add a system like this to their routine, but I can’t see the average person using it.
    I also wish that you had been a little more explicit with your control scheme, perhaps with a diagram of some sort. After a few readings, I believe I’ve figured out what your controlled and manipulated variables are, although I will admit I’m still fuzzy on what your disturbance variable is. However, as you have it set up, it does make sense to control what you are trying to control in the way that you are trying to control it.
    As I mentioned before, I’m honestly not sure how practical this application would be in real life. Having it tied to a specific place makes it very limited in its application. For example, someone having a panic attack, as you mentioned, would have to be in the place where the system is set up. In today’s culture of constantly being on the go, it seems unlikely that they would be in exactly the place where they would need to be when they would need the system to go off. In addition, there is the question of cost and space. As much as I would love having access to a system to help minimize my stress, I’m a broke college student with half a dorm room to call my own. I don’t have the money to spend on a system that could dim the lights or play music on command, I don’t have the space to set up any of this sort of system, and I’m also pretty sure I wouldn’t be allowed to make any changes to the wiring anyway. And I feel like a lot of your target audience wouldn’t be able to afford a system like this, anyway. So while I think that this system could have its use somewhere, as it stands, it feel very limited to me in its scope.

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