Jan 05, 2016

Author: Katrina Yu

[…]Those living in Beijing who are seriously concerned about the effect of air pollution are more likely to buy air-filtration masks, home air-purifiers, and increasingly, devices known as “laser eggs”. The portable dome-shaped machine monitors AQI levels in the immediate vicinity using simple laser technology.

“In the past you had to look at a smartphone app to know what the pollution levels were. And an app is telling is what somewhere maybe 25 kilometres away from you said an hour ago. It is not right here right now,” says Liam Bates, founder of the company producing the pollution monitoring device, Origins Technology.

On the second day of Beijing’s first Red Alert, Bates is juggling tightly scheduled drop-offs of new supplies of the laser egg. He originally founded the air-quality focused tech company together with his wife Jessica Lam after she developed asthma symptoms shortly after they moved to Beijing.

Starting off selling air purifiers, the couple eventually realised that they could produce portable pollution monitors at an affordable cost.

“When we first came out with this product a lot of people were like: ‘This is useless because it can’t clean your air, it only tells you there’s a problem and we all know there’s a problem’. But a lot of people who told me this at first have since changed their attitude,” says Bates.

Today, it’s not uncommon to find the device on shelves in homes, offices and restaurants. Bates says sales suddenly spiked after the Red Alert announcement, particularly among the local Chinese community.

“Expats in China were always largely aware of how bad the air is, but among the local community there was this misconception that ‘it’s not that bad’, and air purifiers and masks were seen as ‘things for fancy people.’

“Now, if you simply look at the number of people wearing masks today versus two weeks ago, there’s a big difference. People who you would never think would wear a mask are wearing one.”

The entrepreneur applauds recent government initiatives to invest in renewable energy and improve air quality. “China is doing a lot and going faster then any Western nation would or could. And when China sets its mind to something it gets it done.”

But, he added: “The pollution is very harmful to health and there’s a direct correlation to exposure to these levels of PM2.5 and lifespan. So no matter how fast China goes, it’s never going to be fast enough.” […]