Air Quality Control and the Future of Smart Homes

It’s been a year since the massive fires my fellow Sonoma County, Californian’s and I had to experience. Many homes, businesses, state parks and lives were lost, to say the least. For us who made it through to the other side, we are reminded again of the tragedy that brought our community together in a time of emergency, not only because of the anniversary, but also because of the new larger fires that have happened, namely the Camp Fire in Butte County, Calif., which is about three hours northeast of us and has brought massive smoke to settle into our Sonoma Valley. We all collectively learned what N95 means and got a very quick lesson on smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation side effects, as well as a few minor ways to avoid them. What I am about to share with you, are options you should consider for your home’s environment and your overall well being.

The air you breathe may be compromised heavily or even somewhat moderately and you may not have the slightest indication that your health is at risk. Our homes and offices have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, obviously — but you may not be aware of what level of toxins you are exposed to, what frequency they occur in your life, what side effects they may cause, and most importantly, how to avoid them and how to purify your environment for a safer and healthier home.

Luckily for you, several extraordinary companies have already done the hard part for you and have created solutions that can help protect you. There are now smart devices that you power at home and connect to the Internet that allows personal data to be stored in the cloud for remote communication and information analytics, allowing you to be aware of things in your environment that your eyes may not be able to see. Now thanks to sensors and two-way communication with other smart devices, these products can not just detect unseen threats to your air quality, but also correct them. We live in a society susceptible to airborne toxins, and we need to address these issues with a sense of urgency and not just as an afterthought.

New startups pop up all the time that are now focusing on home automation and home technology and even the big brand names are following the trends. A good example of this is Google’s Nest Protect, Smart Smoke and C/O alarm, which work in conjunction with Google’s smart ecosystem, but also allows for third party integrations. This is especially important because allowing multiple devices to work together in unison, creates a larger robust system, even multiple standalone systems. Now, this is not new or specific to Google, it’s just a great example of how this concept is widely adopted in our home as a technology standard. If you take this same concept and apply it to other non-Google devices, or even “non-smart devices” into the equation, you can still build a safer space with the help of a few connected ones that won’t break the bank:

Your first step is simply becoming aware. Don’t just be aware, get Awair. Awair tracks invisible fine dust and chemicals in your air and gives you personalized recommendations to help you stay safe and healthy. You’d be surprised on how unhealthy your indoor air quality is compared to outside your office or home. Awair has a few products for both residential and commercial markets and whichever you decide to implement, the benefits in air quality are huge for one and all parties. Your air quality affects allergies, asthma, focus, sleep quality, skin health and your overall health. I suggest starting with their Glow product, as it will also act as a smart/switchable outlet for easy triggers of non-smart air purifiers, fans or anything you plug not it of course. Awair also works with other devices like 
Nest, Alexa and Google Home to automatically keep your air clean and healthy. Check their out blog here, to learn more about air quality and related fun facts.

The next step would be to add the previously mentioned Smart Smoke & C/O alarm, Nest Protect, to your smart home’s air quality tool kit. Google’s Nest products are simple to use and aesthetically pleasing. They may not be your brand of choice in the this category, but they are a serious contender to most manufacturers in their field.

Over 1,000,000 homes in the U.S. experience high levels of carbon monoxide every year.

With visual and audio aides plus the extension to your smartphone ecosystem of choice (iOS and Android), Nest Protect stands out from the crowd of competitors who offer the basics of just an audible, and rather annoying alert, but at a price to match the premium features. However, at $119, isn’t your safety and well being worth a little extra? I mean, it’s your life and it’s your future. Think about the comfort of not being alerted of a fire, when it’s simply a bit steam in the kitchen. How about an extra nightlight when you walk near it in the dark, or its self testing feature? You’re supposed to test smoke alarms monthly. But nine out of 10 people don’t. So Nest Protect checks its batteries and sensors over 400 times a day. And it’s the first alarm that uses Sound Check to quietly test its speaker and horn once a month. You can learn more about Nest Protect, and a ton of its bonus features here, but also be sure to follow me here on rAVe, because in case you couldn’t tell, I’m a fan of The Google-Tron brand.

Alea Labs is a brilliant new startup that I just interviewed on my AV Insider podcast, and they are about to ship a new set of “smart vents” designed at residential and light commercial spaces. Alea Labs, a Bay Area California company is in my opinion, taking control of of the air quality, one room at a time, but also re-shaping what HVAC is going to be in the near future. I predict by 2020, a major company buys or licenses their smart vents to take this concept to a larger scale, hopefully at a more friendly price structure. A smart vent from Alea Labs simply replaces your existing vent in a room, assuming it’s one of the eight sizes they support now (I know, standards, right?!). It gets installed in minutes, utilizes a multitude of sensors and your existing Internet and smart thermostat to create a better controlled/zoned room. This allows for more accurate temperature readings, with two-way feedback, power and energy savings. Alea is set to launch in Q1 of 2019, and at that time, they are expected to have both iOS and Android apps, along with supporting both Amazon Alexa and Google home assistants (no word on Apple’s HomePod as of yet). You can learn more about them here.

Dyson’s Air Purifier is a must have for anyone who is serious about purifying their air quality indoors. With their roots stemming from capturing your pollutants in surfaces and flooring, Dyson now offers ways to capture and cleanse your air’s toxins, and with a little help from sensors, an app, and of course the Internet, you’ve got a nice selection of stylish and functional air purifiers that also heat or cool if needed.

What you breathe can’t typically be viewed by the naked eye, and this is why it’s extremely important to know and identify any potential dangers to your environment, as well as cleanse yourself of them. Dyson is the leader in this category and you should start here, if you don’t already own an air purifier.

Now you’ve got a good head start of your air identification and purification game and your ready to live a healthier and happier life. Send me some details (include photos too!) of your smart home air quality to:  johnny@ravepubs.com

To everyone who lost something, someone or everything during the California fires, I send warm thoughts and prayers your way. I mean no harm in referencing tragedies past and present. I only wish to educate, and I hope this helps, even if only a little bit.

Johnny Mota

About Johnny Mota

Johnny Mota is a systems integrator in northern California. He writes for rAVe [Publications] as a member of the BlogSquad, as well as SF New Tech, Geek Beat TV, Lust Gadget and other places. He also acts as the social media manager for a few AV and automation companies. He loves art, technology and lamp. Don’t make it weird. You can reach him at johnnymota3@gmail.com.