11 Jan 2018
Clean air is among the biggest global health challenges, but air pollution not only exists outdoors – indoor air tainted by dust and toxic household substances can be just as hazardous to health.
To address this problem, Hong Kong-founded start-up uHoo has created an indoor air sensor that can monitor nine air-quality parameters: temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, VOC, PM2.5, air pressure, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.
Priced at US$299, the coffee mug-sized device and an accompanying smartphone app enable users to monitor an area of about 400 square feet of open space. The company claims to have developed the most advanced indoor quality sensor on the market, capable of detecting more chemicals, particles and toxins than any of its rivals.
The two founders, CEO Dustin Onghanseng and Brian Lin, the Hong Kong-based Chief Technology Officer, met while enrolled at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s MBA programme. Keen to develop a device that could alleviate their rhinitis and asthma, the pair created their first indoor air-quality sensor at a hackathon, integrating sensors and a processor that sent data to the computer via USB.
The early prototype encouraged the pair to venture further, raising money through crowdfunding and from venture capital firm East Ventures. “We went with Indiegogo over other crowdfunding platforms as it was the easiest to set up, and we received useful feedback from backers on the features they wanted,” says Mr Onghanseng. After honing the device’s design and functionality, uHoo joined the AIA-Konica Minolta Accelerator in 2016. All orders were delivered in June 2017, and the company now plans to continue developing new technologies.
Data that Matters
Through monitoring indoor air quality, uHoo provides information and recommendations. Changes users have typically made to their indoor environment based on uHoo findings have ranged from ensuring bleach bottles are sealed after use and removing old paint from storage, to turning on the range while cooking, ventilating the home and switching to eco-friendly and organic products, he says. Feedback via the uHoo Facebook page indicates that the product has helped customers change their activities at home, while others have noted that they have been able to pinpoint when the air quality deteriorates, take action and reduce occurrences of asthma and other respiratory conditions.
Mr Onghanseng says they have personally benefitted from using the device. “uHoo has helped us understand what our triggers are and the tolerance for each trigger. This information allowed us to change our habits, minimise the presence of triggers and create a healthier home and workspace,” he says.
One of the early technical challenges uHoo encountered was a software glitch. “We had an issue with the set-up procedure for the app. Users needed to follow a specific flow, and if they deviated from that, they’d get stuck.” The co-founder said the issue has since been resolved and uHoo has now turned its attention to growth. The United States, United Kingdom and Canada currently represent its biggest consumer markets, with Europe representing its largest B2B market.
The start-up hopes to partner with different organisations to develop case studies in various industries. “With case studies, illustrating the value of uHoo to organisations in specific industries becomes easier because they can relate to our clients that belong in their industry.”