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Posted on : Sunday 8th March 2020 09:43 PM

How Wearable Technology Can Improve Indoor Air Quality

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Earlier this year, Greenpeace India sounded the alarm on an Indian public health crisis almost everyone knew, but did little to address. The organization published the findings of its air quality analysis in a report entitled “Airpocalypse,” which shows that as many as 1.2 million premature deaths can be traced to air pollution in India, particularly Delhi, the country’s most polluted city. If anything, the report highlights the urgency of installing air filters in homes and buildings.

But air filtration systems may not be enough in India and in other parts of the world suffering from high air pollution levels—these include cities in Nigeria, China and Southeast Asia. In India alone, around 550 million people live in areas that do not meet the national air quality standards for particulate matter 10 (PM10), or particles no larger than 10 microns in diameter. Of that number, close to 180 million people are in areas where levels of airborne pollutants are twice the limit of 60g/m3, as per India’s Central Pollution Control Board.

In response to the air pollution crisis, a team of researchers and inventors in India are turning to new technologies to fight poor air quality on another front.

Using Wearables to Monitor Indoor Air Quality

PerSapien, a Delhi-based startup, is composed of researchers, scientists, and doctors from American and international universities. According to co-founder Shashi Ranjan, PerSapien stands for saving each (per) human (sapien) life. He and his colleagues have come together to look a more personalized approach to mitigating the effects of poor indoor air quality, inventing a personal air filter product named the “Airlens.”

Built on the principle that everyone has the “right to breathe” pure air, the Airlens is a personal nasal-air-purification system that protects the wearer from breathing pollutants such as , molecular contaminants including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), PM10, and PM2.5 among many others. The product comes in two variants—one for children and one for adults. Airlens is essentially a tiny air filtration system that attaches to the wearer’s nostrils. It filters out air pollution using patent-pending molecular technology and is ISO 10993 certified. PerSapien designed the device to primarily defend against particulate matter, the dominant component of air pollution in India.

“Particulate matter, or particle pollution, is a cocktail of solid particles and liquid droplets that are small and light enough to be carried by the airstream,” explains Camfil USA’s Charlie Seyffer, Manager of Marketing & Technical Materials for commercial air filters and 37-year ASHRAE member and active committee participant. “When inhaled, these particles can enter the lungs and heart, and have been confirmed to cause serious health effects.”

But the Airlens device itself is only one part of what makes Airlens system so powerful.

Using Data to Make HEPA Filtration Systems More Effective

The truly ingenious aspect of Airlens is Airlens Data, which relies on data fed to the proprietary Airlens mobile app. The app provides information on location-specific air pollution levels, letting Airlens users know the quality of air they are breathing. This information, in turn, is used to create a personalized Air Quality Index (AQI), which comes with data on ambient air quality, the levels of specific pollutants in the air, and when to use the Airlens personal air filter device. This kind of data tracking system can also be applied to HEPA filtration systems, making them more efficient.

The Airlens Data system also uses satellite technology, as well as weather and traffic data, to create advanced models that provide users with accurate data on ambient air quality based on their location.

For air filter manufacturers, leveraging this kind of information can not only help them make “smarter” air filtration systems, but it also lets them be more effective at helping customers. For starters, air quality data can be used to alert people:

  • When to take precautions against air pollution (i.e. limit strenous activity or activate an air cleaner, if it’s electricity-powered)
  • How to take effective precautions against poor indoor air quality
  • How long they need to take precautions
  • The type and amount of pollutants captured throughout the duration of taking precaution

Solutions that Go Beyond Air Filtration Systems

As Greenpeace India notes, air pollution is a complex issue, one requiring different kinds of solutions, from technologies like air filtration systems to drastic government action.

“Air pollution is a multi-faceted issue with many sources and just as many effects on public health and the environment,” said Seyffer. “It’s highly dependent on location, climate, topography, and the presence of anthropogenic factors.”

What is clear, however, is that regardless of where someone lives, the burning of fossil fuels, whether for transport or power generation, plays a significant role in local air pollution levels. It’s particularly true for countries like India and China, whose governments are frantically reigning in the indiscriminate burning of fossil and solid fuels to improve air quality.

Likewise, the private sector is taking things into its own hands, creating products that address different aspects of air pollution.

Smartair – This Delhi-based company specializes in low-cost, high-impact air filtration systems that use high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter and activated carbon technology to remove particulate matter. These filters, which start at $40, are attached to table fans and capture airborne pollutants as they move through the airstream.

Sensio AIR – In contrast, this London-based startup focuses on informing users of its smartphone app when and how long to take precautions against air pollution. This is made possible by Sensio AIR’s large network of air quality sensors spread out across London houses, cars and aircraft hangers.

Read More: Penta Security and R3 Announce Strategic Partnership for Digital Asset Management and MPC Technology

Are the Best Air Purifiers Worth It?

Amid increased interest in technologies to defend against air pollution, there are also many questions on whether the best air purifiers are worth their premium price. An industrial air filter system designed for biomedical and health care applications, for example, can be a large expense because of the strict requirements of medical facilities and hospital air filtration.  One could argue this air filter system is the best of its class, but it would also be inappropriate for home use. In some cases, the air-conditioning system may be modified to accept commercial level high efficiency filtration to provide clean indoor air to the whole house.

This brings us to an important factor when choosing an air filter or air purifier—get the system that best matches your containment goals, the size of the room or building that needs to be purified, and the kind of pollutants it routinely deals with. These factors will determine the best air filter for your specific situation. Your local air filtration supply expert can provide invaluable assistance with such an application.

A Final Note on High Efficiency Filters and Purifiers

As long as air pollution continues to be a health and safety problem, the number of startups promoting their own high efficiency filters and purifiers will only increase. Unfortunately, several companies are taking advantage of the interest consumers have in air filtration, building so-called air filter systems that “remove 99.99 percent of pollutants,” or boast of “HEPA-like performance” for a bargain price. More often than not, these claims are too good to be true.

In any case, it’s important to exercise caution, discernment, and due diligence when investing in an air filter for your industry needs or business. Whether you purchase a filter from a startup or established company, be sure the company is reliable, helps you in choosing the best custom solution for your needs, and offers great after-sales support.

For over 50 years, Camfil USA has produced a wide range of tried and tested air filtration systems for homes, buildings, and industrial facilities. To learn about the importance of protecting indoor air quality against air pollution, talk to Camfil USA. You may also explore our air filtration branch locations to learn more about our product line.


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