This Mumbai startup is making breathing easier with its air quality monitoring device
Pollution levels in India have been shooting up in the last few years. The toxic grey haze in the air is quite commonly noticeable whenever people step out of their homes. According to a study conducted by the AirVisual and Greenpeace in 2018, at least 22 of the world’s most polluted cities were from India.
Exposure to particulate matter and other pollutants is known to have taken a toll on people’s health in the form of heart attacks, lung cancers, and other respiratory diseases. One of the most effective ways to fix this is by monitoring the air quality. Since the extent of pollution is different in every area, a monitoring mechanism can help in identifying the trouble spots and taking appropriate measures to obtain cleaner air.
Mumbai-based startup Respirer Living Sciences has been working on that front. Founded by Ronak Sutaria in 2017, the enterprise has built a real-time IoT-based air quality monitoring device called Atmos. Built with a GPRS or GSM module, the device is capable of measuring particulate matter of various sizes, as well as temperature, humidity, and presence of other hazardous gases like ozone and carbon monoxide in the air.
In just two years, the startup has sold and deployed 400 devices across 20 cities in the country.
“Monitoring air quality helps in assessing the level of pollution in the atmosphere. It enables citizens to guard themselves against extreme events. That is not all. Scientific and accurate data in this space can provide a framework for the government in policymaking. This motivated me to start an organisation, and put together a scalable model that can churn out real-time data about the air we breathe”, Ronak Sutaria, Founder, Respirer Living Sciences tells SocialStory.
Ronak completed his BTech in Computer Engineering from the University of Mumbai. He pursued a Master's in Computer Science from New Jersey Institute of Technology in the US. During that time, he participated in many citizen-driven projects and events, where he was exposed to technologies such as wireless sensors.
Ronak worked in the Silicon Valley for five years and later joined Mindtree Research Labs. It was in 2015 that the 40-year-old entrepreneur got an opportunity to gain some hands-on experience in the field of his interest.
“I got a chance to lead a project at a Mumbai-based non-profit organisation called IndiaSpend. That is when my tryst with air quality monitoring began. As I was involved in setting up sensor networks for tracking air quality, I realised the need to scientifically validate all the data I was handling. From thereon, I decided to start on my own,” Ronak recollects.
The initial phase of establishing Respirer Living Sciences was marked by conducting research and testing technologies to build air quality monitoring systems. Over time, the startup’s team of seven employees set up the data communication system, as well as the controller, transmission, and sensor interface boards required to build the air quality monitoring device.
“The enterprise has been sustaining itself through grants from multiple entities such as – Microsoft Research; Department of Sciences and Technology, Government of India; and Shakti Foundation. Respirer Living Sciences is also incubated by WeWork Labs,” Ronak says.
Enabling people to know what they are breathing
The device developed by Respirer Living Sciences is focussed on obtaining scientific validation of air quality data. Known by the name of Atmos, the monitor can be installed in any sheltered outdoor space with a power outlet to the plugin. However, in the case of the non-availability of electricity, the device is powered by a battery that can sustain up to eight hours.
Since Atmos has an in-built GPRS or GSM module, it does not require any WiFi network. Once installed, real-time data about particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, and PM10), temperature, humidity, and quantity of gases like ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide can be obtained by the user.
“All the data is generally transmitted to the user using a cloud server. This, in turn, can be viewed on the web through a map-based dashboard developed by us. Our customers range from individual home buyers, educational institutes, to industrial estates and research labs. Owing to the wide range of applications air quality data has, there is a sustained engagement of people,” Ronak adds.
The customer base of the startup includes IIT-Kanpur, SLU University, State Pollution Control Boards, policy research organisations like Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and Islamabad’s Pakistan Air Quality Initiative.
Shweta Narayan, Head of Healthy Energy Initiative, has been purchasing Atmos for the last two years for organisational needs. She says,
“We have deployed more than 50 monitoring devices in rural and semi-urban areas. They have all been very reliable. The data is accessible at all times not only to us, but also, to the public at large. Hence, its utility goes far beyond the organisation. The air quality data that is given out can be applied for timely decision making”.
Since Atmos is completely built in house, the startup has been able to cut down the cost of importing sensors. The average price of the device is Rs 30,000, which is less expensive compared to the market price of other similar tools.
“Since we live in an age and time where pollution levels are affecting both humans and habitats, devices like Atmos can boost awareness when it comes to monitoring air quality. Besides, the data from it can be utilised to set the target for reducing pollutants and make breathing easy” Ronak concludes.
(Edited by Suman Singh)