Wearable air quality sensor provides real-time data, contributes to crowdsourced map

TZOA wearable environmental sensor

This personal sensor tracks environmental factors that can affect your health, and enables users to become citizen scientists in the quest for better environmental data.

Air pollution and poor air quality aren't just concerns in the developing world, where smoky cookstoves and lax environmental standards for vehicles and industry are the norm, but also affect the health of people in some of the most modern cities on the planet. And while it might be common to just trust the powers-that-be to monitor and manage air quality in the developed world, that trust might be misplaced, in the sense that no matter how good municipal environmental monitoring systems are, they probably aren't nearly as accurate or relevant as the data coming from a sensor that monitors the air immediately surrounding us.

Aside from seeing visible signs of poor air quality, or smelling that something's not quite right in the air around you, how do you know if you're being exposed to air pollution that might impact your health? How do you know that local pollen levels are high enough to trigger a reaction from your body, before it happens? A new wearable air pollution sensor, called TZOA, aims to address those issues, by putting the environmental data from your immediate environment into the palm of your hands, so you can make better choices for your health.

The TZOA wearable "enviro-tracker" monitors several different environmental variables (air quality, temperature, atmospheric pressure, humidity, ambient light and UV exposure) and sends the data via Bluetooth to an app on the user's smartphone, as well as to the cloud, where it will be added to a crowdsourced air quality map that can help inform others of unhealthy conditions near them.

According to the TZOA website, this wearable device can help users know when indoor air quality is harmful, when they've reached the limits of healthy UV exposure from the sun (or if you need more, such as during the winter), where the cleanest cycling, running, or walking routes are, and what the optimal light levels are for better sleep (and waking). The app then gives users recommendations for actions they can take to minimize the unhealthy effects of these environmental factors, such as improving indoor ventilation or choosing a cleaner route for biking, which can help users make healthier choices and create better habits.

Along with the real-time data from the sensors, the TZOA app also provides a daily digest with exposure levels for each of the environmental variables, including the locations and the amount of time spent at each, which could help to inform users about how their daily routine affects their exposure to potentially harmful environmental influences.

"Our mission is to create a social movement for environmental change. We believe awareness leads to advocacy, which leads to action - helping perpetuate innovation and green technology.

With TZOA, we want to bring air quality data to every person on Earth - whether you're concerned about the air in your home, on your commute, or in your community." - TZOA

TZOA is currently in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, where the developers are seeking funds to finish the R&D and prototyping and bring two variations of the device to market (a consumer version and a research version). Backers at the $99 level will be the first to receive the consumer device, which is expected to be ready for delivery in the spring of 2016.

While I really like the idea of this sensor, it does appear that until there is a critical mass of people wearing the devices in any given location, the mapping feature will be rather sparse, especially for those of us who live in areas with a very low number of early adopters and gadget-lovers. However, that's the case for many similar tech products that offer a crowdsourced data feature, and it seems as if the TZOA device would still be useful for tracking environmental data on a personal level, regardless of how well-populated the map feature is.

Find out more about this wearable air pollution sensor at the TZOA website.

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