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New Smart Home Device Makes You 'Awair' of Poor Air Quality (Video)

Plus, a live reading of the air quality at Code Conference.


A few years ago, Ronald Ro started doing something that might be considered strange to anyone outside of Silicon Valley: He attached a homemade air-quality sensor, made with an Arduino board, to his young daughter’s backpack, and began monitoring levels of humidity and volatile organic compounds in the air wherever she went.

Ro’s reason for doing this was his daughter’s eczema, which was exacerbated by her school’s dry environment. Now, Ro and his San Francisco-based company, Bitfinder, have turned that backpack-hack into an air monitoring solution for all consumers.

Earlier today, at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Ro revealed Awair, an Internet-connected device that monitors elements such as temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, dust particles and toxic chemicals in the air around you.

Based on the data that’s gathered, Awair’s Web or mobile app will offer suggestions on when it’s time to open a window, change up your cleaning products or even consider a more involved solution. The suggestions are based on recommendations from the Mayo Clinic.

Awair opens up for preorder this month and is expected to ship in the U.S. in early fall. A single Awair unit costs $149 during the preorder period; it will cost $199 regularly and a package of two units will cost $249.

Prior to the onstage demo at Code, Ro had set up an Awair in the conference hall, and gave attendees a real-time reading of the air quality in the room. (Fortunately, it was good, with a score of 91 out of 100.)

“This is the first smart product that lets you communicate with the air, and gives you the capability to fix it,” said Ro.

Awair, which has the design elements of a hip, portable speaker, is actually one of a few available “smart” home products that are focused on things like temperature and air quality in the home. The best-known is the Internet-connected thermostat from Nest Labs, now owned by Google. Birdi (formerly known as Canary) is a device that’s installed on the ceiling much like a smoke detector; it measures air quality. Birdi also offers additional services around emergency alerts; if the device senses smoke from a fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, Birdi will call 911.

But Ro says he thinks the fact that Bitfinder is focused solely on improving air quality, measuring five key elements, makes the case for Awair as a broader health-related product. He also believes it can help with productivity (by regulating air temperature), and will appeal to consumers who suffer from chronic conditions like allergies.

Bitfinder also plans to make Awair work with Nest on the back end — so, hypothetically, if the air quality in the home begins to decline, Awair could send a signal to Nest to turn on a fan.

And Ro says Bitfinder is allotting 1 percent of the company’s revenue to building a simplified version of Awair to ship to people in emerging markets who still use solid fuels for cooking and heating the home, something that can cause disease or death if the home isn’t properly ventilated.

This article originally appeared on

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