Building a hardware startup is a hard business, we are well aware of that. Right now, there are a lot of indoor/outdoor Air Quality Monitors in the market that support low-cost sensors, unfortunately, even when the cost of the materials (aka BOM) is low, companies struggle to survive because of an initial bad business model.
If you want to enter into the game of the air quality or in general of the IoT, you have to ask yourself: How do I turn what I do into a compelling service?
When you sell a product you earn some money, typically three times more of what you have spent. However, your income relies only on that model and the problem with technology is that it evolves constantly, so tomorrow a new company will sell a product a bit better than yours because there will be a new sensor in the market and all future clients will shift their attention towards that device. Then you have to wait for a year or more in order to realize that you have to shut down your product and taking down with you a few hundred to thousand clients that have bought your AQM — More e-waste and frustration for the end-users.
For this reason, you have to invest in software development as well, and here comes my expertise. I have seen a lot of Air Quality Monitors, and I have collaborated with a fair number of companies in the field, but I always see the same mistake.
Some companies believe that they have to give customers free data support and services for life and if they turn their product into a paid service and they ask money based on a subscription model then they will lose costumers, but this is not necessarily correct. You are not going to ask someone to subscribe to your service to get just numeric values of a pollutant, you have to offer them something more than that. Something the competitors can’t offer because this feature is unique in your ecosystem. Maybe it could be restricted with a patent too.
Consumers really value good products especially when they can’t find something similar.
You are going to ask me, “What can I offer them?” You have two options, stay tuned for future articles or contact me in order to discuss how we can collaborate.
7 thoughts on “Building an IoT Air Quality Monitor that will survive the competition”
Good post Sotirios. It goes further than this though. How do AQM’s become key components of a system and why should I want multiple AQM’s?
In my personal house we have AQM’s in 3 bedrooms (2 IQAir + 1 Foobot), 2 workout rooms (uRad) and our kitchen (IQAir). How can these be integrated in to our Control 4 system? How can these be used to tell the HVAC system to provide more fresh air to certain rooms at certain times because CO2 levels are too high? Or is outdoor air a lot better than indoor and temp+humidity will be appropriate for several hours so opening a bunch of windows would be good and so Control 4 should tell me to open windows until 1:00 PM and then close them.
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From a cost standpoint people, both business and consumer, are becoming increasingly irritated with all of the devices/apps as services models and beginning to rebel against them.
In this case, for a consumer, a very nominal fee of $20 annually per household might work, or perhaps $0.65/device/month, but more than that probably not.
People are feeling too ‘nickeled and dimed to death’ to use an American expression.
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I completely agree with you, you can’t ask people to pay monthly a fee, they easily add up, an annual subscription with a reasonable price is the correct way to go.
@opaangell API is the answer
the system behind it can not be too difficult with API’s
Sensors, no matter what brand where you want them indoors, 1 outdoor unit to compare outdoor with indoor. 1 centrale control unit that powers the HVAC and will use heating/cooling/ventilation when needed but can also warn users to ppen windows/doors to let fresh air in and warn them if the outside air is bad.
The outdoor unit could be Breezometer or some sort of service.
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An open-standard is missing, I have written an article about that but I haven’t published yet. Stay tuned and thanks for the support.
The winner product would be a combination of three types of AQ monitors. One that goes around with you while you are outside of home, one to be kept fixed at home inside and one to be kept fixed at home outside. With a strong and user-friendly software to accompany them.
Choosing among the AQ Monitors that are available today, the portable one would work like the Plume Flow 2 with the map feature (with better PM and NO2 sensors though…), while the ones stable at home would be like the PurpleAir for the outside and the iQAir for the inside (with a few more sensors though, like NO2 and VOC’s). A good software program would allow you to see all your data from the three types of monitors on a single platform, both on a mobile phone and a computer. You could see what air you have been breathing during the day while being out of home (at work, or running in the park, or anywhere), what air you are breathing inside your house, and what air you expect to breathe if you open your windows. The software could also control your home air system to make your inside air the best air possible. Personally, if such a software would costs me around $5-10/months, I would be willing to pay for it. Investing money for the preservation of your good health only makes sense.
Unfortunately no single company offers something like that right now. I believe that a strong company like the Swiss iQAir could easily invest into such a system to be sold worldwide, making good profits while helping thousands of people to get a better air. They have invested in more expensive products like their many types of air filtering systems, and they are one of the best companies in the world. Even if new systems come up from competitors, if you do it right from the start you are going to survive for more years to come. I hope they listen.
[…] technology is the price it requires from companies to develop, but remember from a previous post of mine, we need to build software services in order to survive the hardware competition. […]