Tag Archives: environment

How Fresh is Your Air?



I’m lucky enough to live in a small commuter village here in Northern Ireland. If I look out my window, I can see cows munching the grass in a neighbouring field. Many people aren’t this fortunate, and live close to major roads with higher levels of pollution. I think we’re all aware of the increase in asthma and allergies in the past few decades too, and around 5 million people in the UK suffer from various levels of asthma.

And unless fumes are pouring out of an exhaust, most air pollution is invisible to the eye and odourless to the nose. It’s very difficult for us to assess how bad the air quality is in our own homes, even subjectively. For a more objective view the Foobot smart indoor air quality monitor can assess the indoor air and pass the data to its complementary app.

The Foobot is a semi-cylindrical gadget a little taller than a smart phone (17 cm), with what looks like an air vent on top. At first glance it could be mistaken for a smart home hub, but the Foobot has sophisticated sensors to measure gases and chemicals in the air. The Foobot glows blue when air quality is good and turns orange if it becomes poor. In particular, the Foobot measures:

  • VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds, which are toxic gases like ammonia and formaldehyde
  • PM2.5s – Particulate Matter smaller than 2.5 micrometres, like dust, pollen and pet dander
  • Carbon Monoxide, which can be deadly as it binds irreversibly with the haemoglobin in the blood
  • Humidity. High humidity can lead to damp and low humidity is an irritation
  • Temperature

The Foobot can also assess carbon dioxide, but this is derived from other figures – there’s no CO2 sensor. Full specs on the Foobot are here.

As a smart device, the Foobot integrates with other smart home solutions, from Google Nest to Amazon Echo, and with the help of IFTTT, Foobot can also connect to over 120 home appliances, including Hive, the connected thermostat from British Gas. Simplistically, if Foobot detects that the room air quality is becoming poor, then an extractor fan or air conditioner can be turned on to refresh the air. The Foobot itself connects via WiFi and the Foobot app is available for both iOS and Android.

The Foobot is manufactured by AirBoxLab, a Luxembourg-based startup founded by CEO Jacques Touillon, whose son suffered from asthma. Back in 2014 it was an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, formerly called Alima.

I think the Foobot is a good idea, especially if you do have family members who suffer from conditions that respond to air quality. The saying goes, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure”. The Foobot can provide that measurement to help manage the local environment, and hopefully provide relief to sufferers.

The Foobot is available now in US, Canada, Europe and Australia, priced at US$199, GB£170, €199.


Device Renewal Forum Certifies Phone Reuse



Device Renewal Forum

With over 2 billion wireless devices (mobile phones) produced every year, the recycling and reuse of these gadgets is an important environmental issue. Todd chats to Perry LaForge of the Device Renewal Forum about how many major companies are now approaching the issue.

The DRF’s mission is “to expand the growth of the device renewal market through the development of a common and branded certification process for renewed wireless devices”, which means that for consumers, a DRF-certified device will have been properly processed, removing any traces of the previous owners data, and confirms that the phone meets the technical requirements for use on a mobile network. Several major companies, such as Sprint, are joining the scheme and for the sake of the planet, let’s hope the DRF is a success.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Ford Announces the Green Escape, Focus on the Enviroment



Much of the focus lately on Ford products has surrounded technology, as in Ford Sync.  That changed yesterday, however, with the announcement of the new Ford Green Escape.  That’s green as in environmentally friendly, although you can get it in green the color also.  The emphasis for the Green Escape is in two areas – the components and the noise.

The components that go into building the Green Escape are all made from environmentally friendly materials designed to make it 85% recyclable.  Some of the features include seats that contain 5% soy foam, carpet made from 25 recycled 20 ounce plastic bottles, dash insulation made from 10 pounds of scrap cotton from the clothing industry, and a climate control gasket made from 100% recycled tires.  In addition to the eco-friendly components, there are also features like the EcoBoost engine and a six-speed automatic transmission.

Ford’s engineers also put a lot of thought into noise levels and worked out ways to make the new Green Escape as quiet as possible.  For instance the body structure is 20 percent stiffer to help reduce road noise, the sunroof has a fabric mesh deflector to reduce wind noise when open, and the exterior mirrors are what Ford calls “aero-acoustically optimized” which also helps to reduce wind noise, both with the windows open and shut.

Ford also used special sound treatment methods to audibly insulate the carpet, dash panel, and interior trim panels to further reduce the transmission of noise.  They even enhanced door and windows sealing.

Of course, the Green Escape still contains those great tech features that today’s Ford customers have come to expect.  The Sync computer system helps the driver control everything from music to phone to directions.  The Green Escape also has a great aerodynamic look that fits the small-sized SUV.

 


Climate Change: A Summary of the Science



The politics of the green movement and the polarity of views have often prevented real debate on climate change from happening.   Each side will reinforce their opinion with selective facts from the data and use every opportunity to ridicule their opposition’s theories.  A great deal of the climate discussion that has appeared in the media has been coloured by specious facts and bad science.

To counter this and open up the debate, the Royal Society has published a 19 page document (.pdf) called, “Climate Change: A Summary of the Science“, which is effectively a primer on the science behind climate change.  It attempts to be a balanced view, with notes on the background science, what is widely agreed, what is still debated, what is not well understood and what developments we can expect.

The Royal Society is an independent “Fellowship of more than 1400 outstanding individuals from all areas of science, mathematics, engineering and medicine, who form a global scientific network of the highest calibre.”  Consequently, I think that we can be confident that the working group setup to produce the document has used a scientific approach to assess the climate change data and present the information fairly.  In several areas, uncertainty is acknowledged.

However, the concluding remarks are fairly clear with regard to the evidence for climate change.
There is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human
activity are the dominant cause of the global warming that has taken place over the last
half century. This warming trend is expected to continue as are changes in precipitation
over the long term in many regions. Further and more rapid increases in sea level are
likely which will have profound implications for coastal communities and ecosystems.”

I would encourage everyone to read this document (there’s only about 11 pages of reading) so that you can understand the science, take part in the debate and help develop the policies in response to climate change.