I have teamed up with a great product designer Nathan Hassanali in our effort to offer clean air to the commuters that need to move around the cities where combustion engine vehicles are unfortunately still a priority over sustainable alternative methods.
The Problem – Air Pollution
One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century will be to mitigate the negative effects of transport – greenhouse gases, air pollution, and noise – while ensuring positive aspects of mobility. Meanwhile what can dwellers do to protect themselves from the toxic air that is present in the streets all around the world?
Although air pollution has decreased over the last two decades, it is still a major problem in many areas. ‘EURO standards’ for vehicles have not succeeded in reducing Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) emissions and “defected” vehicles (aka Dieslegate) still circulate without meeting the levels set out in the legislation. Recently, the World Health Organization updated the Air Quality Guidelines (2021 AQGs) which sets the bar for human health high because according to new methods for evidence synthesis and guideline development they found proof of health effects occurring at lower levels than previously understood.
In 2021, IKEA made available an indoor air quality monitor, which is very very affordable. I bought one because I was curious to answer some basic questions like how did they manage to build and sell a particulate matter sensor that costs only 14€ or US$12 but also how smart and reliable is it in relation to other monitors.
IKEA is obsessed with naming all their products with Swedish words, so the AQ monitor VINDRIKTNING (which I can’t pronounce) translates as Wind Direction. Obviously, they don’t aim to create names memorable to people’s minds.
Let me share a story with you. Long before covid19 (2018 if I remember well) I and a company I worked for, decided to pitch IKEA into building an AQ monitor as I saw their interest in air quality because they designed some photocatalyst curtains that neutralized VOCs back then. Unfortunately, they turned us down, but I think we planted a seed into them. Long story short in 2021 they released the VINDRIKTNING.
COP26 stands for Conference of the Parties, which are the countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 2021 meeting will be the 26th meeting. Initially, it was due to take place in Glasgow in Scotland in November 2020, but it was postponed for a year because of the COVID19 pandemic.
During COP26 governments will demonstrate their commitment by showing how they will keep global temperature rises below 1.5ºC, deliver money promised to countries on the front-lines of the climate crisis, and shift away from fossil fuels.
So far and after the Paris Agreement little has been done in order to reduce greenhouse emissions. The pressure governments receive is even greater than before because the climate crisis is already unfolding in front of your eyes as more and more people demand actions.
Many people with a lack of understanding for the term global warming just believe that some seasons will be warmer, so what! The term global warming has indeed misled the population for many years as it doesn’t describe the real scenarios of the alteration of the climate on a global scale. Today, there are many terms available trying to describe and help people understand better the severeness of the issue.
Although some people claim that the wood-burning season doesn’t exist anymore because people never stop burning stuff (and this is true in some regions), the vast majority of the population can’t wait for cold weather to arrive in order to light the “cozy” wood stoves and unconsciously chock the village with toxic smoke.
Yes, wood-stoves even the ECO friendly or low-emissions or EPA certified or you name it, are huge polluters! They emit lots of particulate matter (commonly known as PM2.5) and a huge array of toxic chemicals that sometimes linger in the air for many days. Air pollution kills 13 people every minute worldwide and scientists at Harvard University found that dwellers who live in polluted areas are 15% more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who do not!
The atmospheric conditions and the geographical location of a village or city work in a complex way sometimes in favor of the dwellers but most of the time against the dwellers. When a city is surrounded by hills and mountains air pollution tends to stay there for a long time, like in Murcia, Spain. In that case, people’s lungs work as purifiers and trap all the pollutants, as a result, we have more hospital admissions and more chances to suffer severe health effects due to the air pollution which is deposed inside our bodies. The cost to maintain public health also increases.
By comparison, wood smoke from stoves and boilers carries the highest concentration across all pollutants. One eco-certified wood stove is rated at 3.1grams/h of particulate matter which is equal to six heavy-duty lorries which are rated at 0.5grams/h of particulate matter each.
Countless times, I have said that it is very important to monitor our indoor air quality side by side with the outdoor air quality. A collaboration between Airthings and Airly brought the best of both worlds, ambient air quality and indoor air quality monitoring in one place. Unfortunately, this solution is available only to the business customers but we can always hope that the demand will drive the feature to the consumer clients as well.
Why in & out AQ monitoring is important?
Our indoor air quality depends on many factors like building material, furniture, and indoor activities (cooking in a home or printing documents in an office, the perfumes people wear, etc). All of these factors will determine indoor air quality from the inside but indoor air quality is subject to outdoor conditions too. Vehicle traffic, marine traffic (in case you live near a port), wood-burning, industrial activities in the area, and wildfires are some of the reasons that will affect indoor air quality as buildings need to breathe or ventilate if you want.
Long story short gamification works and should be adopted by IoT Air Quality Monitor and their Air Quality apps in order to achieve a behavior change.
What is gamification?
Gamification is adding game mechanics into non-game environments, like a website, a fitness app, or air quality apps to increase participation. The goal of gamification is to engage with users to inspire, collaborate, share, and interact.
Let’s take as an example Apple’s fitness app, those who wear an Apple Watch they know what I am talking about. Each month the application engages users by offering them a digital award, as a result, last month I had to burn actively 19.300 calories in order to win a shine yellow badge. On special days the app encourages you to complete a specific workout to win a special award like for the World Environment Day or Earth’s Day.
Back in April, I and uRADMonitor shipped 5 Smoggie-PM to 5 volunteers in order to help them raise awareness but also to investigate what people breathe in other parts of the world, like in Belgium, Uganda, Azerbaijan, the USA, and Spain. Unfortunately, the US volunteer doesn’t respond to my emails and he hasn’t set the monitor up yet. I hope he is fine and covid-19 or any other possible problem hasn’t affected him.
In this article, I will analyze the data from two of the locations in order to determine the Air Quality (AQ) and get some conclusions that will help my volunteers. Here are some of the photos the volunteers have sent me.
It is always recommended to place the AQ monitors under the shade as sunlight can increase the internal temperature and consequentially the measurements of temperature and humidity will be incorrect.
Someone may ask what more they can offer to an already saturated market of air quality monitors. The answer is simple: Experience! TSI Incorporated is a USA-based company with more than 60 years of experience and knowledge thanks to the 1000 researchers and engineers that work for the company worldwide. They hold more than 50 patents.
Recently, TSI released the AirAssure which is an IoT-enabled Indoor Air Quality Monitor (AQM) designed specifically for buildings that really need to have an in-depth and accurate view of the indoor air quality. The monitor comes in two versions the 4-gas and 6-gas variation. I am going to review the 4-gas AirAssure IAQM that comes with a Formaldehyde, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, and Total Volatile Organic Compounds sensors. Apart from the 4 or 6 gas sensors configurations, all versions come with a particulate matter sensor and a temperature/humidity/barometric pressure sensor. Also, a new CO2 and VOC model will be released this autumn.
Technical Specs 4-Gas AirAssure
Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Total Volatile Organic Compounds (tVOC)
Particulate matter (PM)
Temperature, Relative humidity and Barometric pressure
On 22nd September 2021, the World Health Organization released the so long-awaited update of the Air Quality Guidelines (AQGs). They are bold and ambitious but will governments adopt them?
Let’s see how the updated AQGs compare to the old ones, which were released in 2005. The classical pollutants (Particulate Matter PM2.5/10, and NO2) have been reduced significantly. They have introduced additional AQG levels, such as for peak season Ozone (O3), 24-hour averaging time for Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), and Carbon Monoxide (CO). On the contrary, they have increased the Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) levels from 20 μg/m3 to 40 μg/m3.
It is unfortunate true the fact that I have encountered a lot of people who think that nasal hair will stop all air pollutants from being inhaled and reach the lungs, or as we now know, the heart and brain. They feel completely sure that they are safe irrelevant the concentration of the pollution.
The human nose is an extraordinary human organ that offers us so much, many times we don’t even appreciate its function until we lose it. It can warn us that something isn’t right, for example, food has gone bad, or the presence of toxic gases in a close/open environment but it can also offer us a pleasant sensation when we smell a rose or lavender flowers.