We think about today’s high tech wearables helping us get or stay fit, I’m already 8,000 steps in and it’s only 2:00!, or maybe giving us another way to check Twitter or email on the fly, but some companies are taking wearables a step further. Why not use tiny sensors to measure more than a person’s health? A short while back I shared how one company is attaching sensors to surf boards to measure ocean health. A wearable for surfboards, if you will. My interest was piqued when I received an email about Tzoa’s Envirotracker, a high tech wearable that measures air quality.
Why was I so excited?
For a few months I’ve been talking about a cloud of pollution- an odor, really, not a visible cloud, that originates at a local industrial area. It’s not always present, but when it is, the unpleasant smell can travel for several blocks blanketing the neighborhood and hovering over the high school athletic fields. As far as I recall, it’s been close to two decades since area residents last made a stink about the stink. Back then, the EPA did a study and determined that there was no health risk, or at least the company from which the seemingly toxic odor emanates wasn’t doing anything illegal.
As athletes at the high school, my sons know the odor well. I talked to them about developing an app to track the smell. At the very least, I envisioned a simple way for people to note what time the smell was present, their location and something about the weather or wind conditions. I got as far as calling a local health department and looking at sensors online, but like so many things, it got put aside. Though I did manage to post something on Facebook and a few local friends expressed concern about the topic of air quality at the high school, too. I’m noting a couple of resources to follow-up on at the bottom of this post.
The Tzoa EnviroTracker
Anyhoo, when I read the email from Tzao that promised to not only motivate me to exercise, but also let me know the healthiest places to do so and check my UV exposure (yeah, it does that, too), I was intrigued. The description of their “wearable tech 2.0” product as a “menage-a-trois between Fitbit, June, and AirBeam” was a bit over the top, but it did keep me reading. I read up on the Envirotracker as well as their not-quite-competitors. As I understand it, it seems more like a mashup of the last two items, or maybe I’m just missing the part about it measuring personal fitness a la FitBit.
That said, I love the concept.
Imagine if everyday people can easily monitor air quality. Citizens will be empowered to map their neighborhoods and demand higher air quality standards from local businesses. I imagine anyone who gets off the Metra at Union Station in Chicago would be thrilled to have solid evidence of just how bad the air quality is down there and hopefully work to make changes that lead to cleaner air.
Read more about Tzoa on their Kickstarter page. Their campaign ends on December 18, 2014, so don’t delay!
Sensors and the Array of Things
As I poked around online reading about other environmental sensors and high tech wearables, I learned about the Array of Things. I was just getting comfy with the Internet of Things and now this this whole Array of Things. Talk about walking the line between super cool and super creepy! If you click through to read the article you will note the quote along the lines of “observation is not the same as surveillance,” but it seems to me the capabilities are there. Watch the video below to learn more.
Whether you’re a wannabe citizen scientist or a community health advocate, there just might be a bright clear-air future ahead.
Resources for Illinois Air Quality Concerns
- Illinois EPA Bureau of Air
- Illinois EPA regional office in Des Plaines. They supposedly handle local complaints about air and land. Their phone number is 847-294-4000.