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Air Quality Wearable TZOA Launches Kickstarter Campaign

Tzoa A start-up called TZOA has launched a crowdfunding campaign to develop a wearable “enviro-tracker” device for monitoring air quality and UV metrics.

As of now, 33 of 200 “early bird” $135 TZOA packages have been claimed.

The smartphone app connected to the device is available for either iOS or Android platforms.

TZOA will have an open API, allowing developers to brainstorm uses which the device’s creators may not have envisioned.

The makers of the device refer to wearers as “citizen scientists”, echoing the disruptive approach taken by “citizen journalists” to ancient and obsolete forms of writing.

Just by wearing the device, users are contributing to a crowdsourced, always-on air quality map. The device sends notifications to users’ smartphones, warning of pollution or other environmental dangers such as mould or pollen.

“The challenge was to make an immaterial thing like air feel more tangible and engaging, interesting and approachable,” says Afshin Mehin, founder of Woke Studios, product designers of TZOA. “We designed a wearable device and app that would enable people to see their environment in a new way and treat the air as a more precious resource. The language of preciousness was also a perfect way to create an object that feels like jewelry or a fashion accessory that you’re proud to wear.”

At the end of the Kickstarter campaign in December, TZOA’s makers have a detailed plan for steps necessary to have the device out for shipping by August 2015.

Although they’ve already admitted in their Kickstarter campaign that the $110,000 target won’t actually be enough to bring the product to market, they also let slip that investors are waiting in the wings, watching the success of the Kickstarter campaign as a trigger to initiate other sources of finance.

Laura Moe, the company’s co-founder, left a career in nursing to help found the start-up within the context of a six-month Entrepreneur-In-Residence gig at Hootsuite. She was recently named one of Canada’s “Top 10 Under 22” by the Next Big Thing accelerator.

The practical uses of the device might include, for example, warning of a spike in pollen. The Kickstarter campaign talks more broadly of the challenges posed by climate change and “first steps” that wearers of the device might potentially initiate by being wearable tech pioneer guinea pigs.

Quite amazingly, for a Kickstarter campaign, the TZOA team tested several off-the-shelf brand-name environmental sensors and accelerometers and found them lacking, and so custom-built their own proprietary technology.

The TZOA sensor measures particulate matter in the air, distinguishing between PM2.5 particles, quite harmful, and PM10, which are more likely to be floating allergens.

Ideally, enough people will be wearing these things in your area to build a map with enough depth to provide a convincing air quality portrait of your immediate environment.

While the word “Tzoa” is apparently meaningless, the product’s inventors have symbolically placed the burden for meaning on the silent “T”, meant to represent the danger posed by unseen particulate matter.

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