Air, Pollution, The, Next, Big, Thing, , Consumer Tech, Going Green, Sustainability

Air Pollution: The Next Big Thing?

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Could devices like Cube Sensors and The Copenhagen Wheel be the future of air quality monitoring?

Today we can monitor anything from what you eat, to how far you have run. Monitoring your activity has become a big player in the consumer tech world. Companies such as Nike are paving the way with their range of activity monitoring devices and apps. It is a model that works well if you have access to a smart phone or compatible device, the fact is we love consuming and sharing data about us. So is this where these new products could have a huge impact in the near future? So far environmental monitoring has been confined to the labs and academics, hardly a cool topic to be comparing data on but this could change with the introduction of new devices.

You’ve changed your diet, you’re exercising. It’s time to improve your environment.

There is still a long way to go but society is becoming more and more aware of the impacts our human activity is having on the world around us. It will still be a long time and need some fundamental shifts in current established paradigms but the future is a world that cares about its impacts and works efficiently and within natures limitations. It’s time we started to understand and care about the invisible dangers around us.

A lot humans don’t like to make changes on assumptions they like to see the data and understand the facts. So far understanding our impacts on air quality is surrounded by distortion of fact and opinion because we don’t have easy access to the data. When you are able to see a few figures, for example the distance you’ve run, you are quickly able to do something different and see what effect this has on that data.

Cube Sensors do just this. They allow you to place one of their devices in the room and monitor elements of air such as humidity, barometric pressure, and importantly VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compound’s) amongst other aspects related to your environment. The inclusion of VOC’s in their monitoring puts this device in a very strong position as the vast majority of our mass produced building materials produce these chemicals. For more information check out their blog

This device coupled with a good looking app, could start the trend towards consumer orientated environmental monitoring apps. Interestingly the phrase they are using on their site to promote the need for this device is ‘You’ve changed your diet, you’re exercising. It’s time to improve your environment’. This creates a link towards our current obsession for monitoring data and shows how their device could fit within your life and help to improve it. You could easily see devices like this in places from your office at work to homes, gyms and cafes opening up a whole new world of accessible and important data.

The most exciting element for me is the potential use of this data on a large scale, similar to that shown in a project by MIT SENSEable City Lab. They have come up with The Copenhagen Wheel a device that not only captures energy dissipated from breaking, to be used later if you need a boost, but it monitors the air quality around you and adds it to a central map database. Like Cube Sensors it links to an app and encourages you to cycle with a system called Green Miles, that on the surface looks similar to the concept of NikeFuel. Check out the video on their website for more details.

A project by the MIT Senseable City Lab Photos by Max Tomasinelli

A project by the MIT Senseable City Lab Photos by Max Tomasinelli

If we start to see more products like these in the near future that not only allow us to monitor our local surroundings but also add to a central data base providing realtime information on a large scale (such as a city), then this could potentially have a huge impact on reducing our pollution levels. This could be in the form of direct reductions on a personal and local level but also on a city or national scale. If the population of a city can see that there are high levels of dangerous pollutants around where they work/live, then there is the potential for greater pressure to be put on the producers of these pollutants. We could start to have a greater awareness of our invisible surroundings and have the ability to push towards changes from the government and companies, something that is essential if we are to challenge the authorities.