When we think about air pollution, we often imagine vehicles chugging out smoke or factories throwing up toxins, but we fail to realise that most of these also take place right inside our homes.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that indoor air can be anywhere from two to five times as polluted as outdoor air. According to the World Health Organisation, household air pollution poses one of the world’s greatest environmental health risks.
This is because pollutants are trapped indoors, where they are concentrated and multiplied to harmful levels. This indoor pollution contributes to a wide variety of health issues, from allergies to asthma.
Addressing this situation is the startup AirOK with its indigenously developed ‘Vistar’, which is claimed to be India’s first smart air purifier.
Incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, the startup was in works for three years to develop a smart air purifier that can not only work in homes but also in hospitals, commercial real estate and food processing.
Speaking to The Better India, Bhanu Prasanna Varma an IIT Madras alumni, AirOK’s Head of Business Development and market research told us about the conception of the product. “We started in April of 2015. We were working in the air quality monitoring technology; it was only later that we shifted into air control technology. Thereafter, our journey began.”
The state of the art purifiers have many futuristic features from Wi-Fi to touch interface to remote monitoring via mobile phone. The tech can estimate the percentage of pollutants in the air at any given point.
A statement from IIT Madras described the product, “Vistar 550 has coverage area of 550 square feet. The filter will have a life of about one year, which is twice that of the air purifiers currently available in the market.”
Prof Ashok Jhunjhunwala, Faculty-in-charge, IIT Madras Research Park, launched the product at the premier institution and addressed the gathering. According to the report on NDTV, he said, “Ever increasing air-pollution in Indian cities is having severe impact on health of its people. We need a war on pollution-causing elements. But in the meanwhile, we need to minimise its impact, by cleaning air, wherever it is possible. AirOK has come up with something which will make great an immediate difference to our lives.”
“The existing filters in the market weren’t upto the mark– lifetime-wise,” says Prasanna. He explains, “There hasn’t been much improvement in the filter technology so we wanted to improve that and at the same time, make it more economical. That’s when we came upon EGAPA.”
EGAPA is the patented filter technology from AirOK. It stands for Effective Granular Absorption Particulate Arrester and works on the absorption process. With a dual stratified filter technology, it has the capability of filtering particulates up to 0.3 microns.
These particulates include volatile organic compounds, acidic and basic pollutants, to airborne bacteria and pet dander.
The smart air purifier can be placed in any corner of the room where it can sense the pollution level and automate the fan speed, based on the concentrations of the pollutants.
The purifier is priced at Rs 20,000, and the filter has a life-span of one year. This, the team claims, is double of what existing purifiers in the market offer.
Prasanna told us about the use of the purifier, saying, “The purifier is meant for commercial purposes like hospitals and restaurants because it is very low maintenance, but any normal household can also have it in their homes. This way, the consumer can also be aware of the pollution in their surroundings.”
He adds, “There is only one main air filter that will need replacement, which will only cost Rs 1,200. In that way, it is very viable.”
SAR group, the makers of water purifiers under Livpure brand invested about Rs 12 Crore in AirOK and will be the distribution partners once the product goes on retail.
With the technology of the air purifiers tested in laboratories and on the field, the air purifier plays but a small role for our right to clean air. The purifier can show us the amount of pollutants we live in and possibly inspire us take steps to act in this regard.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)