Getting ready to leave my hermetically sealed, climate-controlled space pod (AKA my bedroom) during the onset of a Canadian winter can feel a bit like preparing for an actual mission to Mars. Not only do I layer up with all the appropriate gear, but I fill a bag with extras: gloves, a hat, and maybe a scarf, just in case where I'm going is a bit chillier than expected.
QTemp is an app that wants to eliminate the guesswork when it comes to venturing out into the world. A tiny dongle outfitted with temperature and UV sensors that you can wear anywhere on your person sends its data to a smartphone via Bluetooth or NFC. A companion app then sends this data to a map that lets you and other QTemp users zoom in to a particular location—a movie theatre or coffee shop, for example—to check out what the temperature there is like there. Out and about, and looking for a spot to cool down or warm up? QTemp would have your back.
It's sort of like a "wearable weather station," the company claims.
You can think of QTemp as being a bit like a more limited version of Weather Underground, in terms of what it measures—Weather Underground lets users crowdsource everything from temperature to precipitation, but relies in part on dedicated sensors that volunteers install on their property instead of phones—mixed with Waze, an app that uses user phone data to crowdsource traffic information.
"If you wanted to go to a party, or a museum, or see a movie in a theatre, based on the history of data people share, you can see the temperature inside that building," said Neda Ghazi, QTemp's chief operating officer.
QTemp can also tell you what the temperature is in your current location, and how long you can chill in the sun for before you get roasted by the rays. It even lets you select your skin type with a slider based on the Fitzpatrick Skin Type classification system used by dermatologists since the 70s.
Neda said that the device, for Android users, will be powered via NFC by the phone itself, similar to how wireless charging stations work. For iPhone users, their QTemp dongle will need a battery, since NFC functionality on iPhones is currently limited to Apple Pay. QTemps for Android will cost $25, and $29 USD for the iPhone model.
Though I've yet to actually try QTemp, I'm a bit skeptical of how useful it would be for me. I'd like to think that I'm already a decent judge of whether I feel cold or not, for example, so I'm not sure how valuable knowing the exact temperature in my current location would be. As for having a timer for when to get out of the sun, I'm more of a "sit in the dark" type of dude. But too much sun can give you cancer—which is bad—so an app that helps you maybe not get cancer… Well, that's pretty good. Well, unless you're a reckless summer cowboy, then this might just be an invitation to push your epidermal resilience to the limit.
"People with different skin types have different sensitivities," Neda said. "Some people have some natural protections in their skin, and they can tolerate more sun. Others, maybe 10 or 20 minutes is a lot."
QTemp is made by Comfable, a startup based at the University of Toronto, and it was founded by a group of PhDs in fields as disparate as computer science, sustainability, and architecture. QTemp is currently raising funds on Kickstarter, and should be ready to ship by the summer, Neda said—just in time to get a tan without burning up, and then find out where the nearest store with air conditioning is.