This Cookie-Sized Gadget Alerts You When Air Quality Becomes Toxic

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This Cookie-Sized Gadget Alerts You When Air Quality Becomes Toxic

As a recently diagnosed asthmatic, I can confidently say that it’s easy to underestimate the quality of the air that we breathe each day. Like so many things, it’s easy to take advantage of something that’s as commonplace as (supposedly) fresh air. But not all air is equal. Thanks to the rise in pollution, there are plenty of irritants out there to affect the air quality around you. Bloom, a new device, available through Kickstarter, aims to help you work out how best to avoid pollution, no matter where you are.

It all started as an idea between Monica Diaz and Chris Ernst, shortly after moving to NYC. “Bloom was created on the notes section of Chris’s iPhone in 2016,” Diaz says. Having noticed the heavy odor of vehicle exhausts around them, and the fact it was having an effect on them, the pair wondered what the effect might be like on “more sensitive populations such as children or the elderly.” As she points out, there’s also the additional issue of “what pollution might exist that they could not see or smell?”

Between them, they offered the perfect set of skills for tackling the problem. Originally from Madrid, Spain, Diaz has a background in economics and political science, having learned all her secrets at an international consumer goods firm in San Francisco. While she handles the operations, Ernst deals with the technical side. With a background in environmental economics, robotics and having worked with utilities and natural resource agencies, it’s a natural fit.

Bloom itself is a small, almost golf ball-style device, it monitors the air around you providing a quick heads up via LED lights. Blinking blue means good air quality, while a solid red light means bad. Via its Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities, it can notify you whether the air quality is good or bad.

For instance, when the pollution rises, you’ll receive an alert telling you of the fact. Bloom keeps things positive and productive by giving you insight into how best to reduce the bad air quality around you. If you’re indoors, it might suggest opening a window, while outdoors, it’ll tell you to try walking down a different road that’s nearby. The key here is that you can take Bloom wherever you go, and it’ll adapt to your situation. Even if you’re hiking and climbing in elevation, it’ll offer you an idea of what to do next.

With personalization options accounting for a variety of allergies and other health conditions, and the option to define certain parameters and trigger points, Bloom is basically a smart assistant for your lungs. It’s the kind of thing that’s near essential if you suffer badly from allergies or respiratory complaints, but still useful to the general public.

It was a sometimes challenging path to get to launch phase, though.

“On the technical side, determining which pollutants to sense has been a major challenge,” Diaz says. “In an ideal world, we would sense all pollutants, but obviously this makes the product much more expensive and physically larger.”

Settling on Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Dioxide, due to their dominant presence indoors and outdoors, Bloom also monitors “various volatile organic compounds such as methane, benzene and butane.”

bloom_1.gifPlenty of time was put into ensuring that Bloom was small and stylish, while still maintaining a respectable battery life. There was also the issue of making Bloom something that could be worn easily. In a way, Bloom also offers some Easter Eggs in the form of its design. “For the pattern to allow airflow, we designed the front to mimic a sunflower. It displays the Fibonacci Sequence, a pattern repeatedly found in nature.”

Bloom is currently available via a Kickstarter campaign with a $99 pledge gets you one device along with a charging station. That price gradually increases to $119 and $139, as the campaign progresses.

And what’s next for Diaz and Ernst? “Once we have Bloom to a place where feedback is consistently positive from our users, we aim to continue developing devices to help us better understand our environment,” explains Diaz. “We are also very interested in making life easier and healthier in the homes of tomorrow.”

Bloom could be the start of something special in the health/smart home world. The campaign ends September 11.