The Latest in Wearables Is the Flow Air Pollution Monitor

cc by 2.0。Flow and app/ Lloyd Alter


We talk a lot about air quality on TreeHugger, and lately we have been preoccupied with particulate matter, the tiny bits called PM2.5 that get into your lungs and throughout your body. (See our stories on PM in related links at the bottom.) These are barely regulated, there are few standards for them, and really no minimum threshold for safety. For years, when everyone smoked and burned coal for heat, they were background noise, but recent research has shown them to be a major health hazard, taking years off our lives.


桌上的流动2 /cc by 2.0So I was really intrigued when I learned about theFlow from Plume Labs。它是一种测量挥发性有机化合物(VOCS,来自我们周围的溶剂和化学物质),氧化氮(NO2,主要来自汽车排气和燃烧化石燃料)的一点装置,以及各种尺寸的颗粒物质(PM1,PM10以及可能的内容最致命的pm2.5)。我对我家中的空气质量感到好奇(特别是在烹饪时在街上。当我开始寻找时刚刚发布了新的升级流量2,并且费用为159美元。它在加拿大时不可用,但现在是通过合作伙伴。


在我的自行车上流动/ Lloyd Alter/cc by 2.0

The device itself doesn't look like your usual scientific instrument; it is a nice little bit of industrial design covered with a pattern of holes and a rubber strap so you can fasten it to your pack, belt or bike. It has a tiny fan that goes on and off; for a while it was driving me crazy wondering what that noise in my office was. (Flow says, "If you listen closely, you’ll soothe your eardrum with its gentle whirr." I find it annoying and moved it farther away on my desk.)

And what magic is going on inside that little thing! It measures particulates by firing a laser beam at the air brought in by the fan. "Every time a particle is hit, light is dispersed – disco-ball style. This micro light show is detected by a photovoltaic cell that translates the laser’s deflected beams into electrical current we can measure."

The NO2 and VOC sensor is a sort of toaster.

A tiny membrane is heated up to 350 degrees (!), and mercilessly disintegrates any NO2 or VOC molecules passing through. This lets us measure the variations in energy required to maintain the membrane’s temperature stable as it’s happily toasting away.


All of this is sent to your phone, tied into the GPS, and sent up into the cloud. "This is how we’ll be able to start layering our users’ data on top of all the maps we’ve already built from public data. And that, my friends, will truly be the next leap forward in air quality monitoring!"

Data download looks like this

数据下载看起来像这个/ lloyd改变/cc by 2.0

请注意,这不是匿名数据,但与您的流量相关联。我的iPhone设置为一直给出流量的应用位置数据,所以巴黎的某个地方一群科学家知道我已经在哪里以及我一直在呼吸的地方。(在下载数据时,流程会警告您的隐私their privacy policy is explicit, but this may be a concern for some.)


Trip to school

从家里到学校/劳埃德改变/cc by 2.0


food trucks

Lloyd Alter/ Food trucks at the University of Toronto/cc by 2.0

我对多伦多大学的空气质量特别感兴趣,因为我一直抱怨柴油动力食品卡车几年parked on St. George, the main north-south street on campus. But interestingly, according to the Flow, particulates are highest just before I turn south, in a spot where not much was happening at all. Then it all goes green again until I hit a main intersection where there is a lot of construction going on and a lot of traffic (and a lot of Ryerson University students).

Dinnertime spike

晚餐在晚餐上飙升/劳埃德改变/cc by 2.0

I have become obsessed with this and carry it everywhere with me. I see weird spikes of NO2 inside my home, and am checking the gas boiler flue; am I getting backdrafts? But I am also happy to know that I am adding data that will be used to create a map of air quality where I live.

最后,还有一个问题:有多准确?Flow answers this with their usual style,写作,“与什么相比,准确?”它不是昂贵的实验室监视器或监控站。


What I love about it is that I don't have to do anything, don't have to press a button when I want a reading. I just have to carry it around and it measures all the time. I am not getting lab-grade measurements but I am getting a lot of information that is useful to me;says it is really good at:

  • Helping users understand the pollution levels they are exposed to in terms of thresholds corresponding to different health risks.
  • 提供上下文和见解,帮助用户了解他们与环境的平均水平以及其他人口平均水平的曝光。
  • 准确地检测变化和峰值 - 从个人健康的角度来看,一致,可靠和实时检测空气质量突然改变阈值是优先级列表的顶部。

So far, I am very impressed, and will keep carrying it everywhere.