As we’ve been looking at in our series, air pollution is a serious global problem that is having a huge impact on the health of the world population, as well as being a massive drain on the economy. More than 90% of people on earth live in areas where air quality exceeds the limits recommended by the World Health Organisation, so it really is an issue that affects almost everyone.
But where there are problems, there are solutions, innovation, and opportunity. To help tackle the growing epidemic, various startups have entered the fray with products designed to address a number of different aspects of air pollution. The main activities can be broken into two sections — startups concerned with the monitoring and measurement of air quality, and startups focused on methods of purifying the air or working with polluted air.
Here, we give a rundown of some of the best startups operating in both areas. The air quality monitoring startups take in both indoor air monitoring and outdoor air monitoring, and the air purifying startups cover everything from facemasks and home purifiers to startups that are turning polluted air into ink.
Air Quality Monitoring Startups
When an air quality monitoring startup is founded by two people with chronic breathing conditions, you know it’s coming from a good place. Dustin Jefferson Onghanseng and Brian Lin built their first air quality sensor at a 24hr hackathon, leading them to found their business and a shared mission to help people lead healthier lives. Their advanced indoor air monitoring device is capable of detecting more pollutants than other devices on the market, with detection of ozone, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, dust, and volatile organic compounds all possible.
Founded: November, 2013
Investors: Altos Ventures, Chester Roh, FuturePlay, Global Brain Corporation, GS Home Shopping, John Maeda, K Cube Ventures, LB Investment / R/GA, F/GA Ventures, Samsung Ventures, Techstars
The cleverly named Awair is an indoor air quality monitor that tracks the toxins and chemicals in the air along with the levels of humidity and dust, and provides recommendations on ways to improve the air quality. Last year they received a hefty $4.5M in a Series A funding round, including from John Maeda and Chester Roh, so you can expect this startup to keep growing at speed.
Air Quality Egg
Harnessing the power of communities, the Air Quality Egg enables people to measure pollution levels with the device, and then to share this data with other Egg users to create a powerful data network. There are 5 varieties of Egg model capable of measuring 7 different pollutants, such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and more. The devices use an app for configuration, with data then uploaded automatically to the internet where it can be analysed and shared. The device won a “Best of Kickstarter 2012” award, raising more than $144,000. A definite success story.
In the 3½ years since their founding, Breezometer has raised an impressive $4.8 million in two rounds of funding. The air quality monitoring API provides advanced air quality analysis and data to businesses and products via both the supply of data and integrated software. Their method of providing hyper-local and real-time data is proving invaluable to a wide range of industries and companies, from automotive to smarthome products.
Oizom is the startup behind the Polludrone, a solar-powered outdoor air quality monitoring system. The Polludrone’s use of solar power and its retrofit design means that it can be incorporated into existing infrastructure with ease. It measures a wide range of environmental parameters — such as particulate matter, ozone, and sulfides — and then harvests this data in the Oizom Terminal cloud analytics software to provide a wide range of reports and functions.
Air Purifying Startups
Focused on creating better living conditions for people in cities, Green City Solutions combines the natural ability of plants to clean and purify air with Internet-of-Things technology to make a powerful contribution to the development of more intelligent cities. The core product that helps fulfil this mission is the CityTree, a mobile biological air filter that makes use of the air-purifying ability of moss to achieve the equivalent effect of 275 urban trees. This ability combined with cutting-edge technology makes Green City Solutions an exciting startup with a strong future.
Graviky are a super innovative startup that is doing something quite amazing with polluted air — it is converting it into ink. Graviky developed retrofit technology that captures polluted air from various sources and converts it into ink that can then be used for a variety of purposes. The company secured almost $120,000 in funding from Mohit Goel in October of 2017, and has also run a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Founded: April, 2011
San Francisco–based Vogmask sells its filtering respirator masks in 41 countries worldwide. It focuses on turning a product that is traditionally practical into something that is stylish and desirable. Its most advanced mask uses a filter that is effective in stopping 99% of all PM2.5 particles. Twice yearly new trend-driven collections are released to keep the styles fresh and appealing, keeping the company a step ahead of other mask makers.
Smart Air Filters
Founded: September, 2013
As one of the countries that suffers the most from air pollution, the need for indoor air filters in India is understandably huge. Smart Air Filters focuses on providing low-cost air purifiers to this market, as well as China, Mongolia, and other areas that suffer from poor air quality. Smart Air initially started out with a focus on helping people build their own air purifiers in a DIY fashion, but eventually launched its own range of purifiers in November 2015.
Based in India, Kurin is also working at one of the forefronts of air pollution. This startup provides a range of purifiers of various sizes, including what they are pitching as the “world’s first portable purifier.” This purifier can be taken in a car to help combat in-car air pollution, and given that in car pollution is a serious health risk, this product may be the one that gives the startup a bit of an edge.
We’re not so sold on this startup, but it’s worth including to shine a light on one of the more interesting outcomes of the air pollution crisis. This Canadian company is literally selling fresh air. That’s right — you can buy canned air to inhale at your leisure. The air comes from the Rocky Mountains before being canned by Vitality Air and sold. People made fun of bottled water when it first appeared, so maybe we’ll feel the same way about canned air in the future. For now, air purification is probably a better way to go.