Review: Monitor the safety of air around you with Atmotube

Atmotube is a tiny pollution sensor. It is marketed as the first truly personal, most affordable device that helps you breathe cleaner, healthier air.

The little gadget goes with you wherever you go and keeps track of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, humidity and temperature. It has been designed to sense environmental changes in real time to help you make the right choices and live healthier. Knowing the quality of air is important not only to asthmatics and lung disease sufferers, but also for parents of young children, the elderly, and everyone else who wants to know more about the air they breathe.

Essential reading: Home air quality monitors

The company raised funds to develop the product on Indiegogo earlier this year. The campaign closed having raised over $265,000, 338% over the intended goal. The device has started shipping but has not reached all backers just yet. We were one of the first ones to receive the product, so have been testing it extensively.

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Atmotube arrives in sleek, minimalistic, smart packaging. Out of the box, you get the portable air quality monitor that measures 6.6cm by 2.2cm and weights only 42 grams, a micro USB cable for recharging the Li-ion battery and a little instruction booklet.

The titanium coated tube-like device has a single button on the front. Above the button is a multicolor LED for displaying status and air quality, and there is a Karbin type clip at the butt of the tube that you can use to attach it to something such as a bag or your keys. The top of the tube is perforated as this is where the device sucks in air.

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Setup is fairly straightforward. Download the iOS or Android app, install it to your smartphone, answer a few basic questions and pair your device. The process really is seamless.

You will need to check for a firmware update as the company is dishing them out on a regular basis. Also, it is worth noting that it takes about on hour for Atmotube to get properly going. The readings will be a bit off to begin with but after a few minutes they start settling down.

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The app lets you to choose between metric and imperial units, it allows you to turn off the device (you can only switch it off via the app), and tweek data synchronization options. There are also notifications settings where you can adjust the pollution level above which Atmotube will alert you that you are breathing unhealthy air.

Finally, you will find a ‘device broadcast interval’ option in the settings which is set by default to 1 second. Unfortunately, you are unable to change this which means that readings are taken almost constantly. This, of course, drains the battery, and you will be lucky if you get 7 to 8 hours of continuous use out of the little gadget. The company says it is working on a firmware release, which will allow users to increase the broadcast interval to every 10 seconds or more, which should in turn extend battery life to up to 2 weeks.

As mentioned, the device itself provides real-time detection of volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide (within VOCs), temperature and relative humidity. You also get an overall air quality score (AQS), and various historical breakdowns of air quality.

Carbon monoxide is a gas that has no odor or color. But it is very dangerous and can cause sudden illness and death. Even small amounts can cause terrible headaches and dizziness. VOCs, on the other hand, are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. Over time, exposure to VOCs has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, liver and brain damage and cancer.

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All real-time measurements are accessible from the app on your mobile phone which also displays readings from other Atmotube users around the world.

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An alternative way to check air quality is to press the physical button on the tube. The LED indicator will light up showing the current AQS level. The color will change from red which indicates severely polluted to orange, yellow, green and bright blue for clean air.

Most people don’t find out they’ve been exposed to toxic air until it is too late. Atmotube was designed to be attached to your keys or purse, sit there quietly monitoring the air around you, and if needed warn you if the quality deteriorates below a certain level. This is one of those rare crowdfunded projects which delivered on nearly all its promises.

Our only gripe with the product is battery life. Only seven or eight hours of battery juice is not nearly enough and pretty much defeats the intended purpose. But once the firmware updates are in place and battery life goes up by a couple of weeks, the little gadget could prove to be a life-saver.

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