Airthings’ newly appointed Field Application Manager Joakim Lindh, offers his first insights and expertise into the rapidly expanding world of PropTech and air quality.
My first month at Airthings was a deep dive into a new field of business, Air. There were three fascinating (albeit generalised) statements that caught my interest early on:
- We spend 90% of our time indoors, where air is often holds up to 5x more pollutants than outdoors
- Indoor air quality has a direct impact on productivity, health and wellness
- Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers
These facts sparked immediate trains of thought which still keep me inspired. As I started to read up on topics relating to air quality and getting sensors up and running at home, I became even more intrigued. I have always been interested in nutrition theory and experimenting with food diets. You know, you are what you eat. Apparently, I am what I breathe as well.
While you are reading this, it’s likely that airborne pollutants, particles and chemicals are finding their way into your lungs. Radon gas could also be accumulating inside your building. Together with other ambient elements such as temperature, humidity and air pressure which impact the way you function both short term and long term. Can we do something about it? Yes. The first thing we need to do is to figure out the indoor air quality based on these various elements. There is a vast range of sensors out on the market with varying cost and availability (Times Magazine tells me this one is awesome). With climate sensors, we can get firm readings on air quality and take the necessary steps to do something about it. For example, remove the “bad” air through ventilation/filtering or modify it with central heating systems or air conditioners.
But there is more to it, as there are studies and research showing that optimising indoor air quality not only improves health and productivity but can also increase building energy efficiency and reduce cost. Fantastic, right? There must be a business in this. It’s about adding simple and low-cost sensors and actuator solutions to existing control systems in a building to make it “smarter”. It’s about how a building is allowed to be monitored and automated in a self-sustaining manner which combines convenience with energy and cost savings over time. All this whilst making sure the inhabitants experience optimum indoor air.
Since I usually refer to Internet of Things (IoT) as the digitalisation of the physical world, PropTech is then plainly digitalisation of buildings. While there is a lot of practical aspects of digitalisation, i'm experiencing that PropTech is more of a collective mentality towards introducing cutting edge technology into a rather slow and conservative market. If that is supposed to work out, it’s crucial that the introduced technology is packaged in a way that is simple, scalable and robust.
As I still explore the in-depth technical aspects of PropTech, one key challenge has become apparent; integration. Both in new constructs and retrofits, there is still a lack of standardization and common practices towards demand-controlled ventilation and other critical building automation schemes. In a market segment that is heavily weighted towards wired infrastructure caught in a world where wireless APIs based infrastructure is leading the way. Redundancy emergency systems will probably always be there, for good reason, but that should not stop the innovative wireless solutions we now see emerging in the market.
If you are into IoT, you are well aware of the return-of-investment challenges posed to product companies by end customers. Plenty of pilots and proofs-of-concept initiatives have been implemented to evaluate new emerging technologies. In the end, however, there must be a fundamental value that can be translated into cost savings or new revenue streams and not just nice-to-have implementations.
I believe that we are on the verge of changing the way we think about air. We all deserve a long-lasting healthy life and we should educate our schools, workplaces, social environments to use technology to get there. To prioritize well being.
As start-ups and large corporations alike realise the business opportunities with indoor air quality, I hope we will experience similar ecosystems as with IoT where value networks and partnerships are at the core. But we need to collectively make sure it’s done in the right way. Educate one another.
Leading technologies such as API integration can help businesses harness indoor air quality data, find out more here.