You may have heard the term “sick building syndrome”. It was coined back in the 1980’s to describe ailments caused by improperly ventilated buildings. Over the past 40 years, vast improvements to building standards have been introduced to ensure that indoor air quality is safe to those inside. Today, high-tech sensors accumulate large amounts of data, showing building owners exactly what kind of contaminants are in the air. But often building operators and facility managers have no idea what to do with the big data collected. So the question that needs to be answered is: “What does the data collected tell us about the air quality, and what steps can be taken to fix air quality issues?”
The InCube initiative
Over the past six months, I have been part of a team of five individuals working in an incubation environment in Silicon Valley, looking for the solution to this question. We are all MANN+HUMMEL employees and are part of the company’s first InCube initiative. Through InCube, an out-of-the-box idea development program, I was relocated for 6 months to Silicon Valley, cut off from the corporate environment and challenged to develop a new, actionable business plan.
Supported by the #Plug and Play environment, my four colleagues – Ellie, Carlo, Marcel and Minsik – and I established our start-up qlair, offering an air quality analytics solution that makes use of building and pollution data to optimize clean air services and products. During the company development stage, it became clear to us all that it’s not about collecting the data, but making sense of the data received. I knew developing an IoT solution based on advanced computing and AI would be the next phase, taking the complex datasets that the hardware is generating and understanding exactly what to do with that data.
The problem with commercial buildings
Did you know that commercial buildings are one of the most inefficient systems out there? HVAC Control Systems are often only regulated by temperature and CO2. As a result, 6 out of 10 buildings are hazardous and have at least double the pollution levels found outdoors. That’s critical for the estimated 60% of companies which have Employee Care Programs, as clean air is the fourth most important criterion in employee protection.
In today’s environment, air quality management is reactive, with action being taken only when building occupants complain of stuffy or odorous air. With studies showing that employee productivity is related to air quality, there is a definite interest in sustaining healthy air quality levels in the workplace. Many building management companies are placing air quality monitoring devices on site. However, these devices do not provide instructions on how to resolve any problems and many facility managers are left unsure how to find a resolution.
Responsive solutions for improved air quality
Coming to the rescue, the qlair team is paving the path to intelligent ventilation systems. Our approach to filtration is to see it as a service, providing actionable insights for self-directed adjustments to the air system. Using the big data compiled from high-tech sensors, we take measurements and develop customized recommendations to create the best possible solution for air quality issues.
We want to help to increase efficiency by improving the productivity of employees in the building through better air quality. Ultimately this can also improve energy efficiency by paving the way to real demand-driven ventilation and heating/cooling. With our aptitude to make buildings smarter, qlair recognizes pollution patterns and forecasts up to 8 hours to allow purification systems to proactively make a difference.
Our advanced technology can read information from air quality data that isn’t always directly related to indoor air quality. The system constantly analyzes unique data points, such as how many people are in the room, the area of the building, or when cleaning is being performed in the building. All these and other unique scenarios can significantly alter the quality of the air we breathe.
The next step on the path to smart filtration
We have worked closely with building management and maintenance providers, HVAC manufacturers and sensor manufacturers to develop our system. qlair is currently performing pilot testing with building management companies – and is seeking customers and joint venture partners to expand our reach. If you would like to know more about qlair, please get in touch or visit www.i-qlair.com