Managing air quality monitors (AQM) in buildings is not always an easy task especially if you have deployed a lot of them. When there are many rooms that you have to take into consideration it can become very costly, very fast to equip all those rooms. Is there a way to monitor rooms without an AQM?
Well, it turns out there is a way to monitor the environmental and air quality conditions in rooms that do not have physical monitors nowadays. How?
Ethera Labs, which is a French company, with over 10 years of experience in professional IAQ solutions has integrated powerful Machine Learning (ML) algorithms that predict the conditions in rooms where air quality monitors are not installed, yes that’s right, you have read correctly. They have trained special neural networks by taking a lot of parameters into consideration in order to predict accurately the conditions and alerts users in case they need to take actions or even address an AQ/Environmental incident automatically.
By connecting the station to BMS, they manage to achieve energy efficiency while directly managing the ventilation system, as well as portable air purifiers or giving building operator the right information in advance so they can take action at the right time. They achieve two goals, great air quality and energy efficiency.
Hardware-wise Ethera Labs offers an arrange of monitors that can address different building specifications and needs. In this article, I will review the Mini XT Basic (MX-KIT020) and the NEMo Cloud/Supervision Cloud platforms.
- Particulate Matter (PM2.5/10) Sensor
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Sensor
- Temperature Sensor
- Relative Humidity Sensor
- Micro USB for data transfer
- 6-Month Internal Data Storage
- Power Supply 5V/2A
Sensor-wise the monitor is basic but a PM2.5, CO2, and Temperature/Humidity sensors are what you need to start monitoring the condition in indoor environments. The company has chosen cleverly the internal design of the device as it is modular, and I guess they did that to keep the cost down, and at the same time, the monitor becomes scalable in case more sensors need to be installed.
There is also a magnetometer inside the device which is used only for turning on some of the devices with a special tool. Again this is part of the clever design to avoid accidents by pushing physical buttons, for example, in a classroom by the students.
The particulate matter sensors has a good correlation r2~0.77 against a Tapered Element Oscillating Microbalance (TEOM) AURN reference instrument. On another comparison against the TSI-3025A, the correlation is r2~0.99.
It uses a non-dispersive infrared (NDIR) carbon dioxide sensor that is capable to perform a Zero/Background/Target calibration.
For temperature and humidity, it uses one of the best sensors in the market with an accuracy of ±0.2°C for temperature and ±2% for humidity.
NEMo Cloud is the basic tool that comes with the monitor and allows users to access the air quality data remotely. Users can see all measurements, download data, and set email alerts in real-time.
They offer a proprietary indoor air quality index that ranges from 1 (very good) to 6 (extremely poor). It is very easy to understated (see image 3) and it is color coded, in my office AQ is always very good.
NEMo Supervision Cloud
NEMo Supervision Cloud is the premium version of the platform which offers much more features like the indoor air quality (IAQ) forecast and the ability to manage various rooms in a building with or without air quality monitors.
The company has developed an indoor air quality index that ranges from 0 to 200. Zero means excellent IAQ and 200 means Poor.
Weather and outdoor air quality data are also present in the platform through the available AQ stations in the city, but also from the proprietary outdoor monitors that the company can provide to users in case they need them.
For the Supervision Cloud platform to work the company has to be very extensive and they will ask a lot of questions regarding the location and characteristics of the building. For example, the ventilation/purification systems available or not in the rooms, the age of the building, the type of furniture in different rooms (as some of them may off-gassing VOCs), approximate occupancy, etc.
For me, it was easy to check the accuracy of the conditions in rooms where air quality monitors are not installed as I have other 3rd party AQMs around the house. Based on repetitive daily routines inside the apartment the algorithms can reflect approximately the real AQ conditions, however, if one day out of the blue I change my behavior then the algorithms will have to re-adjust. Everything happens automatically.
The benefit of having such technology is clearly economic, from a deployment perspective as you save money on not having to install many AQMs, but also energy-wise as the platform can adjust automatically central ventilation systems HVAC/HRV according to building occupancy, indoor and outdoor pollution.
The device operates flawlessly and it is very robust. There is a LED that flashes periodically but it seems to be related to the data transmission. If I could give a negative point, it would be the absence of an AQ light indication at the from of the device that I have because I was told by the company that the current version has an LED indicator for pollutant concentration with customisable thresholds for CO2.
The built-in battery ensures that all measurements will be available for the expert that will go through the data. This is very important especially for scientists that conduct studies. Places with unstable power grids will definitely benefit from it.
The ability to connect the device to a computer via a USB cable and obtain all the data for up to 6 months is also very important in case no communication networks are available even though the device supports LTE/LoRa/Bluetooth. The software (Windows only) is very powerful as it supports live data monitoring and there are a ton of settings to customize the monitor.
The competition is huge, and prices can go high very fast, but XT Mini ensures quality and competitive monitoring systems with great cloud platforms for all needs and budgets. Some other models even meet the WELL standard as they can measure TVOC, light, noise, and LVOC. Remember Ethera Labs offers only B2B solutions at the moment.
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