Monitoring Air Quality at Home
Consumers soon will be able to choose from a variety of relatively inexpensive, Wi-Fi-enabled devices for monitoring indoor-air quality.
One of these, called Speck, was developed at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute and commercialized by a spinoff company (Airviz Inc.), according to an article in AirQuality News. The tabletop device measures levels of fine particulate matter in the air–particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, or what the industry calls PM2.5–and warns homeowners when to close windows or take other steps to reduce pollution levels.
Speck allows homeowners to upload the data to a website that provides analytical tools or to share the information with federal monitoring stations. The Speck website says that homeowners can use the data in a variety of ways–for example, to check whether air cleaners are really working or if a vacuum cleaner is making indoor air unhealthy.
“Sometimes you can see air pollution as a haze in the distance, but in and around your home, it’s invisible,” says robotics professor Illah Nourbakhsh, as quoted on the website. “You might know the PM2.5 level at a government monitoring station miles away, but without a sensor such as Speck, you can’t know what is in the air you breathe and how it might change based on prevailing winds, time of day or what you’re doing.”
Nourbakhsh said by email that the device, with a 3.2-in. touchscreen, has a sensitivity to 0.5-3 microns, which is the range for pollutants that are most responsible for asthma, cardiovascular disease, COPD, and other health problems.
According to the website, the device will start shipping in April. It can be ordered online for $200 plus shipping.
Blueair measures pollution and cleans the air
A device marketed by a Swedish-based company called Blueair measures air quality and allows homeowners to control an air purifier that removes dust, pollen, and hazardous particles, according to a company description.
Like Speck, Blueair’s device connects to the internet. The company says that whether they’re home or not, homeowners can track levels of dust, pollen, and chemicals, and they can turn on an air purifier.
The Blueair Aware, scheduled to be ready for sale by June, is a conically shaped monitor about 8 in. high that will check for PM2.5 as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and will sell for about $200.
The device will send air-quality information to the owner’s telephone. The company says that the Aware can be connected to proprietary air-cleaning devices so that if indoor-air quality declines, the Aware will alert the air cleaner to start or increase its fan speed.
Awair indoor sensor to be available this summer
A company called Bitfinder says it will begin selling its Awair device this summer. The air-quality monitor is the size of a stereo speaker and monitors temperature, humidity, levels of dust, carbon dioxide, and VOCs, according to a description posted at the WT VOX website.
Bitfinder has a website, but it provides little information about the Awair other than a statement that the device will be available this summer and a short blog describing the background of the company, which was founded in a garage in Cupertino, Calif. (Sound familiar?)
WT VOX quotes company co-founder Ronald Ro as saying that the device will have a variety of uses in residential settings, such as warning homeowners when humidity levels are too low or when the kitchen range is producing unhealthy emissions.
Awair will have a companion smartphone app that will produce color-coded alerts and text notifications, rather than a numbers-only approach that most users wouldn’t know how to interpret, Ro told WT VOX.
Netatmo is already on the market
The Netatmo, at $179, is a Wi-Fi-enabled weather station that tracks indoor-air temperature, humidity, C02, and even sound levels. The small cylindrical device sends a warning via smartphone when indoor C02 levels reach unhealthy levels.
According to the specifications listed at the company’s website, the Netatmo has a temperature range of 32 degrees F to 112 degrees F, a humidity range of 0% to 100%, and a CO2 range from 0 to 5000 parts per million. It apparently does not measure the density of fine or coarse particulates.
The Netatmo also has an outdoor sensor that measures temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure to help users “select the most appropriate transportation and plan [their] leisure activities.” There’s an optional rain sensor, and a wind gauge is in the works. Users can display data in graph form to track weather and air-quality patterns.
TZOA will sell a portable tracker
San Francisco-based TZOA will be offering a portable air-quality monitor called the Enviro-Tracker to measure temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, ambient light, and UV. It will, the company’s website promises, distinguish between PM2.5, fine particulates, and PM10, larger particles that are often allergens.
The device will stream information it collects to a smartphone app and then to a cloud-based data-collection point to create large-scale maps of air-quality conditions that anyone could use–sort of like Waze for air.
Users can clip the Enviro-Tracker to their clothing or purse, or leave it at home in its charging cradle to monitor indoor-air quality.
The company said that it will begin taking orders in the second quarter of the year, but it didn’t say when the monitor will start shipping or how much it will cost.