Just as it took revolutionary technologies to create the environmental problems that exist today, it will likely take revolutionary technologies to solve them.
Green-focused tech innovations make sustainable practices simple to implement and highly scalable. Luckily, some of the sharpest minds in the tech world are working on it. In the green building arena alone, countless small startups, mature businesses, and major IT vendors are promoting solutions designed to monitor air quality, give building occupants greater control over their environment, connect lighting and other systems through smart software, and more.
Here are four of them.
Five years ago, Kevin Hart was working on a project in a space with high levels of concrete dust. Concerned about his work environment, he looked into ways to test the quality of the air he was breathing.
His options were limited.
For thousands of dollars, he could have rented a basic air quality monitor. Or, for a smaller (but still large) fee, he could have rented a monitoring device, which was around a square foot in size and, he says, “super heavy.” For hundreds of dollars, he could have brought in an outside expert to test the air, but that option would only give him data for a single day, when dust levels might be higher or lower than average. Hart never ended up testing the air, because there was no effective, affordable way to do so.
In 2014, Hart co-founded TZOA, a company that makes accurate, affordable, and highly portable air quality monitors. The business started in Vancouver, but has since moved to San Francisco, where Hart serves as its CEO. At the end of last year, the company shipped its first product—the TZOA-RD02, a palm-sized device meant primarily for research organizations. In tests, Hart says, the University of Utah found that the TZOA device was between 90 and 96 percent accurate against a “gold standard” monitor.
“That’s a $40,000 sensor against our $400 sensor,” Hart says.
It’s this reduction in price—and in size—that could be a game changer. It is already possible for people and organizations to test the quality of the air where they work and live, but nearly none do, for the same reasons Hart didn’t test the air even when he was worried about breathing in concrete dust. But Hart envisions a world in which air quality is a constantly accessible metric, not much different from reading the time off of a clock, or checking a home thermostat to see the current indoor temperature.
The consumer version of the TZOA monitor, which Hart hopes to launch by next May, will be even smaller and less expensive than the research device—between $99 and $139, and around the size of the face of a men’s wristwatch. Hart sees the product as a wearable device that people will be able to clip onto their backpacks, constantly collecting data about their environment, including information about chemicals, particulate matter, temperature, air pressure, UV exposure, and humidity.