Israeli startup BreezoMeter is a breath of fresh air among quantified self apps. It lets you monitor air quality in real-time – and could be the perfect citizen environmental policy tool
Quick: What pre-seed Israeli startup has presented at both the U.N. and White House in just the last two months?
Since launching in June 2014, BreezoMeter, a geolocation-based air quality startup has had a whirlwind year. In April, the UN Economic Commission for Europe invited the company to present its ideas to UN delegates in Geneva. In May, BreezoMeter was among 72 startups from around the world invited to the White House’s Emerging Global Entrepreneurship event.
So what is all the flurry about? It’s this: Air pollution causes major health problems and even death. Anyone who has found themselves inexplicably coughing after exercising outside or held a nebulizer to a baby’s face in the middle of the night has experienced first-hand the havoc pollution can wreak. But often, you can’t necessarily trace a condition to pollution. Cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, migraines and even autism are strongly linked to air pollution. According to the OECD, “By 2050, outdoor air pollution (particulate matter and ground-level ozone) is projected to become the top cause of environmentally related deaths worldwide.”
BreezoMeter is an Android and iOS app that maps air quality for you based on your geolocation. Open the app, and BreezoMeter will tell you what the air quality is like within about a 500-meter radius. For example, this is the air quality around our office:
The app will tell you if it’s safe to exercise outside and when you are about to enter a high-pollution zone. For instance, if you live in Manhattan and are about to go for your morning run, you could open BreezoMeter and find out that northern Central Park is experiencing poor air quality but that the air quality is better in the southern end of the park. This allows you to plan your run accordingly.
Or let’s say one of your children is coughing a lot on a particular day. Is he coming down with a cold? You can open BreezoMeter and learn that the air quality in your city has been particularly poor for the last two days. Maybe that also explains why you had a migraine.
How does it work?
The way BreezoMeter works is by taking data from pollution monitoring stations installed throughout the country. Right now, BreezoMeter is available in Israel and the U.S. Ziv Lautman, the company’s co-founder and CMO, told Geektime that in both countries there are approximately a few dozen such stations in each city.
When you open the app, BreezoMeter takes data from three or four nearby stations, cross-references it with weather data and wind patterns, the time of day and temperature and triangulates the pollution level within a 500-meter radius. “In the future, we’ll be even more accurate,” Lautman said. The readings are based on six different pollutants: two types of particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide.
The company was founded in early 2014 when Ran Korber, the company’s CEO, wanted to buy an apartment in Israel. His wife was pregnant at the time but Ran was an environmental engineer. He knew there were stations monitoring air quality near the locations where he wanted to buy a house, so he decided to check out the data.
“The data was scattered, incomprehensible to the layperson and actually for him as well.” Lautman explained. Nor was the data available based on a specific location like a street address.
That’s how BreezoMeter was born. “We decided to make air pollution visible.”
B2B pollution data
BreezoMeter’s app is available free to consumers but the actual data they collect is available through an API for businesses. Some of their clients in Israel include the Hadera municipality and the widely used Yad2 rentals, sales, and real estate website. In the U.S., one of their clients is AddressReport, a real estate website. So far, the free app has had over 30,000 downloads.
The company has raised $600,000 in pre-seed capital from Entree Capital, Jumpspeed Ventures, Internet Ventures and several angels. It is finalizing its seed round at present and will open a U.S. office in San Francisco by the summer.
While there are some competitors, such as EPA AIRNow and Air Quality China apps, the space also does not seem terribly crowded. The main question will be how BreezoMeter and similar apps convince businesses, particularly real estate companies, of the need to use their services.
Making polluters accountable
If BreezoMeter achieves widespread adoption, it has the chance of changing the way society addresses polluters. It’s one thing to know in general that pollution exists, but it’s another thing to walk by a particular factory and see that air quality is in the red zone. Apps like BreezoMeter have the potential to empower citizens and bring about public pressure against egregious polluters.