Four years ago, there were no air quality monitors for individuals and families. There was no way to know what was in the air you were breathing, yet air pollution was and still is a growing public concern. The monitoring technology that did exist was expensive, complicated, and only accessible for government and research purposes. In 2013, TZOA formed around a mission to improve planetary health and deliver clean air to everyone.
Our initial approach was to develop a low-cost air quality monitoring technology that would detect small harmful particles in the air and distribute it through retail channels to citizen scientists and change makers to influence public policy. Several concepts later, we stumbled upon an idea for the first wearable enviro-tracker that could map air quality in real time and share it with the community. This concept of crowdsourced air pollution data gained momentum; we received the support of backers through Indiegogo and won awards for our prototypes. It seemed like we were close to helping people live in healthier environments.
Then in 2016 three noteworthy events happened that helped guide us:
1. Value. We weren’t alone. A number of alternative air quality devices started hitting the market such as PurpleAir and Foobot using off-the-shelf sensors that weren’t ideal but could provide ballpark measurements. For the first time monitors were available and inexpensive, but people simply didn’t find them useful. Delivering air quality data on its own was helpful, but didn’t solve the root cause of the problem. People were still experiencing poor air quality. Customers started voicing their frustration and dissatisfaction over the lack of value provided — and we paid attention.
2. Distribution. We had developed our technology and launched on Indiegogo but we needed help making our device widely available to everyone via retail stores. We worked with a large consumer brand for nine months, developing the manufacturing pipeline and negotiating terms, and right before signing the contract, the conglomerate backed out and opted to partner with a lower quality device that gave them more profit, leaving us without a vehicle for our innovation.
3. Solution. Sentinel-5P was announced. This satellite was developed by the ESA and promises global coverage of many different outdoor air pollutants down to a 5 square mile resolution. A Berkeley University professor informed us that the resolution would become even more granular through their finite element modelling technology and data science. Sentinel-5P launched in October, and its air quality data can now be downloaded through an API. Sentinel-5 will launch in 2019 with even more capabilities, monitoring O3, NO2, SO2, HCHO, CO, CH4 and aerosol optical depth (PM2.5). Granular outdoor air quality data is now available for free to anyone with an internet connection and we couldn’t be more excited.
These three events encouraged us to move forward and search for the best way to achieve our ultimate mission of delivering healthier environments to everyone. Near the end of 2016, we raised additional funding from investors to pursue commercialization of two products: our wearable enviro-tracker and a new indoor air quality concept. We split our efforts, making the wearable more manufacturable and developing new technology for homes. In the midst of our bifurcated R&D we discovered that we could make the largest health impact by helping people control indoor environments where we collectively spend 90% of our time, rather than assisting them to avoid outdoor pollution.
Here’s where I want to reach out to our early adopters and offer an apology.
We were uncertain of the wearable’s future so we became quiet about it. I truly regret not having reached out sooner — it wasn’t until now that I could give you a clear answer. As inventors, it’s hard to see the big picture and even harder to acknowledge that your idea isn’t good anymore. It saddens me deeply that wearable air monitoring is no longer a viable solution for our company’s mission. We want to do right by our backers and will be offering a full refund for their contributions. The expertise we gained and technology we developed through our journey as a company is not wasted. All of the work your contribution allowed helped make today possible, which is why I am delighted to introduce you to Haven.
Haven came out of the same mission to combat air pollution but is a brand new way of solving the problem. Haven ties in with your existing heating and cooling (HVAC) system; think of it as a thermostat for home health, helping to tackle pollution from a central point. Building off of the work we put into the wearable, Haven extends our previous technology with numerous new innovations and patents.
Haven solves real air quality issues.
Today we live in buildings that are more energy efficient, sealed tight to reduce thermal leakages. This is great for comfort and our wallets but a lack of natural ventilation means that combustion products and chemical pollution gets trapped and recirculated in the air we breathe. Another critical problem is climate change, which has far reaching implications at both a planetary scale but also on a personal level. A changing landscape is inevitable, natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding have enormous impacts on air quality on both short and long timescales. In Houston and Puerto Rico, mold and mycotoxins will be a problem for more than 100,000 homeowners - meanwhile forest fires on the west coast from Vancouver, Santa Rosa, and greater Los Angeles have exposed millions of families to harmful particle levels. We are building a future where homes are a place of safety and refuge, where buildings directly support your health, and where workplaces truly promote productivity and wellness. Haven identifies and fixes ventilation and filtration problems indoors to solve air quality issues.
More than ever we need your help fulfilling this mutual vision. Regulators such as the EPA and various air management districts have no jurisdiction or focus on indoor air quality in homes; we are on our own. In fact, the largest comprehensive study on indoor air quality involved just 34 homes in Hong Kong. Since Haven devices are individually calibrated, every Haven will contribute to a crowdsourced understanding of indoor air quality across different geographies. Not only can you determine if your air is normal compared to your neighbors, you will also be able to identify if your neighborhood is normal relative to others, assisting in keeping others healthy. Our learnings will be put into practice, forming the groundwork to eventually protect the health of millions of families in homes. Together, we can make clean air easier to achieve for everyone.
The wait for a product that can bring insights and peace of mind is over: Haven is in production and in homes today.
Regulators such as the EPA and various air management districts have no jurisdiction or focus on indoor air quality in homes; we are on our own. In fact, the largest comprehensive study on indoor air quality involved just 34 homes in Hong Kong. Since Haven devices are individually calibrated, every Haven will contribute to a crowdsourced understanding of indoor air quality across different geographies. Not only can you determine if your air is normal compared to your neighbors, you will also be able to identify if your neighborhood is normal relative to others, assisting in keeping others healthy. Our learnings will be put into practice, forming the groundwork to eventually protect the health of millions of families in homes. Together, we can make clean air easier to achieve for everyone. With the help of world class injection molding and electronics manufacturing service partners we achieved a build quality that we are thrilled with. We wanted to make sure we could deliver quickly, which is why we only announced once we completed production validation testing and finalized the tooling and production line equipment. We are scaling up production and will be producing hundreds of units per week in March. On behalf of the whole team, I want to say that we believe this device is worthy of being in your home.
Once again, I want to thank every single one of you.
You are more than just customers to me, I’ve met many of you at CES and various air quality conferences that we attended together. We’ve chatted at Christmas parties, in Lyft Lines, Uber Pools and airplanes. What I’ve learned is that all of you have valid reasons to care about your air quality, health, and the environment. I’ve heard many of your personal stories and the concerns you have for family members and friends, as well as injustices in your communities and neighborhoods. Our backers are truly influencers and some of the brightest people I’ve met and I deeply respect each one of you.