Wearables have been telling us about every step we've taken, and every breath we've made, but knowing what's in those breaths might be just as important. The TZOA, invented by some plucky Canadians, is that new piece of the puzzle that ensures we not only smell what the Rock is cooking, but know whether it's dangerous to our health.
In the future, the health of the planet and its life forms will increasingly be in the hands of citizen scientists who monitor environmental conditions. These advances will also help us transition to green energy solutions, contends Kevin Hart, the co-founder of TZOA, the first wearable sensor designed to monitor the everyday environment. Although TZOA’s recent Kickstarter.com campaign did not reach its intended goal, there are already plans to re-launch in the spring incorporating updated technical details.
TZOA will create a crowd sourced map of environmental data in real-time. As the Kickstarter campaign was ongoing, additional sensors were added to the device. “TZOA started off development as an expensive industrial device, helping solve isolated health issues,” explained Hart in an email exchange with NotImpossibleNow.com. Everything changed when the TZOA team traveled from Vancouver, Canada to an EPA event in North Carolina about air quality sensors. “We learned at the event that there were a limited amount of governmental sensors because the monitors they use are very expensive and require a lot of maintenance,” he explained.
Today’s air quality data is generalized and does not provide an accurate picture of an entire city or locale. TZOA is intended to change that parameter, potentially impacting communities around the globe. “TZOA detects things in your everyday environment that may seem obvious, but are actually invisible and complicated to understand, such as the tiny particles in the air that negatively impact your health,” Hart wrote. For example, there may be certain activities or places that expose people to more air pollution. TZOA is designed to identify those events and locations so that wearers can avoid them, whether it is a real-time isolated instance or building a new habit for an ongoing problem. The device puts the highly polluted areas on a map for everyone else to see, helping raise awareness about the issues in a community and hopefully acting as a catalyst for positive change.
Indoor and outdoor testing of the small triangular-shaped metal device is ongoing (the look is reminiscent of a Star Trek insignia). Proprietary laser-based optical sensors detect two kinds of particulate matter (such as the elements found in fine dust and smoke, tiny particles floating in the air that cause permanent damage to our lungs). Allergens are smaller (PM10) and can also be detected. Once TZOA is operable, during allergy season for instance, the sensor will detect pollen, alerting a wearer to large quantities of pollen in the air.
Air pollution, specifically particulate matter (PM2.5) is a major contributor to respiratory and cardiac conditions. Children, seniors and those with respiratory problems and ironically, those who exercise outdoor are the most affected. Per Hart, the World Health Organization listed air pollution as the number one environmental health risk, after it was estimated to have contributed to 7 million global deaths (1 in 8) in 2012. They have also listed particulate matter as carcinogenic. [click here for more on that]
TZOA alerts wearers to air quality and UV light exposure as well via a color-coded LED light. Further information is available through a mobile app, which combines with GPS coordinates to create a crowdsourced air quality map. Imagine looking at a screen to see the best and worst air of any city; imagine knowing when UV exposure has become excessive. And consider how that information can help improve people’s lives.
Co-founder Kevin Hart is not dispirited. The team learned much about Kickstarter and has momentum moving forward coupled with positive feedback and progress on the device itself. He promises, “We will definitely be hitting our goal next time; we will set a lower goal to reach and a lower barrier to entry.” Sign up here for further information on TZOA’s environmental movement and for further information on the next crowdfunding initiative.