Air pollution has become an inevitable part of daily life for many of us. It occurs when harmful substances including particulates and biological molecules are introduced into the Earth’s atmosphere. Human activity (such as particles released into the air from cars, trains, power plants, factories), and natural processes can both generate air pollution.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that two million people die every year from small particulate matter. These dangerous particles have been blamed for irritations you may get in your eyes, nose, and throat. But its not just the air outside that can be a problem. Most people don’t know that the air they breathe in their homes or offices can be up to five times worse than outdoors.
Essential reading: Improve the air in the home with these gadgets
It is not possible to control the quality of air once you step outside your front door. Beyond wearing a face mask, there is little that you can do. Until now, that is.
Wynd is a smart air purifier that you can carry with you. The gadget creates a bubble of clean air around you by removing dust, allergens, smoke, and industrial pollution from your immediate personal space. It comes from an outfit called Wynd Technology. Having raised over $600,000 on Kickstarter to develop the product, the gadget is now available for purchase to all.
I’ve recently got my hands on a unit and have been taking it through its paces over the past few weeks. These are my impressions.
Out of the box, Wynd arrives with the purifier (with a filter already inside), a detachable Air Quality Tracker, a Kickstand for securing the main unit, a microfibre carrying case and a USB cable and charger.
The main unit is a smart looking cylindrical shaped gadget that comes in a choice of white or black. It is perhaps the size of a water-bottle, a bit bigger and heavier than I expected. The entire device is 17cm tall and 7.1cm wide at the base. Nevertheless, it is very portable and easy to travel with. Despite its relatively small form factor, the company says the gadget can deliver over 8 liters of clean air per second.
The main casing of the unit is perforated along the sides, and this is where the air gets sucked in. The purifier cleans it and spits it out of the top of the device. The top is also where you can find the knob which allows you to control the intensity of the air flowing out. This is done on an incremental scale of 1 to 100. Manually turning knob to the right increases the air purification level, while turning it the other way does the opposite.
Wynd’s engineering lead, Eric Munoz, is a former aerospace engineer. This experience enabled him to implement a rocket-turbine-inspired airflow design which creates a smooth air path for fast purification and low noise. In fact, the little gadget is almost noiseless. Its only if you switch it into high gear that you can hear the air blowing out. If you’re a stickler for numbers, the audio ranges from 30 decibels (quiet rural area) to 55 decibels (a normal conversation)
As mentioned, Wynd is portable so you can carry it with you, keep it in your car, purse, etc. I spend a lot of time at my desk next to a computer, and the gadget is a great companion for this type of work. The accompanying Kickstand enables you to position it so that clean air is funnelled in your general direction. Unfortunately, the Kickstand is a bit flimsy and only really offers a single position, so it could benefit from improvements in design.
Behind all this air purifying magic is a medical-grade air filter capable of purifying particles 0.3um (1 / 210th the average thickness of human hair), and above. The filter is lined with an antimicrobial layer lined with silver to keep it clean from microbes such as bacteria and mould. As air passes through, the particulate pollutants are removed and any residual germs are killed off. Wynd is primarily designed for cleaning the area in your personal space, up to three feet around the device. Apparently, it can clean over 70% of particles in a typical car cabin in under 10 minutes.
You do need to replace the filter once in a while, though, but thankfully it is not very often. Changing the filter is simple. Unscrew the bottom cap of the purification unit, take out the old filter and slot in the new one.
The accompanying smartphone app tells you exactly how much filter life you have left. A filter can last anywhere between 3 and 6 months, depending on usage and the level of pollution around you. I used it for around three weeks on a daily basis (3-4 hours per day, every day) and its life decreased by about 12%. The app says I still have 3 months left. Obtaining a replacement is cheap considering its lifespan. It will set you back anywhere between $6.69 and $10 depending on how many you purchase.
But this is only half of the story. You can’t see what’s in the air that you breathe and this is why Wynd goes a step further.
In addition to being an air purifier, the device has a detachable tracker that serves as an intelligent personal air quality system that alerts you when the air around you is unhealthy. The company says this is the smallest particulate matter sensor on the market.
You can keep it docked in the main unit, or take it out in which case it will communicate via Bluetooth to the main device and smartphone app. If you purchase the tracker by itself, it will come with its own charger.
The LED light on the air quality tracker shines in different colours. Blue indicates good air, yellow moderate air, orange unhealthy for sensitive groups, red unhealthy air, and purple conditions where users can experience serious health effects (in other words leave as soon as you can!). All it takes is a glance and you immediately know where you stand.
The benefit of having an integrated air quality monitor with the air purifier, is that you can toggle the settings so that the air purifier works only as hard as it needs to. And this is where the real magic happens!
With Auto mode switched on, all you need to do is set it on your desk, nightstand, airplane tray table, etc, and it will do the rest. The system will automatically monitor the quality of air around you and clean as needed.
In terms of battery life, when used indoors I reverted to mostly keeping the unit plugged into the electricity outlet. This charges it at the same time, so that its always ready for use in case you need to carry it outside. The battery of the purifier will keep it going for up to 8 hours of typical use. When it’s not docked into the purifier or plugged in, the tracker can last for over a week if it senses every hour.
The white LED inside the purifier lights up when the device is plugged in and charging. When charging is complete the light turns off. The USB Type-C cable enables Wynd to fully recharge in about 4 hours.
Setting up and using Wynd
Setup is very easy. To start off, download the Wynd smartphone app, create an account and register your details. Once that is done, switch on the purifier and air quality monitor, and pair them with the app. This only needs to be done once. The whole process is seamless and takes no longer than a few minutes.
There are only two physical buttons on the purifier. One is used for switching the main unit on/off. The other is used for toggling the settings.
As soon as you switch the purifier on it will start doing its thing. You can opt for the Manual option by pressing the button marked “A”, in which case you choose how much air flows out by twisting the top ring. Or sit back and switch on Automatic mode. Modes can also be controlled via the smartphone app.
And that’s pretty much all there is to it!
As mentioned, the light on the Air Quality Monitor gives you a real-time reading. In an ideal world, it would be better to have a little screen on the tracker or purifier, giving you the actual value of the reading. Nevertheless, the lights serves this purpose well. For an exact reading, head over to the app.
A rather useful option is Night mode. Toggling this to ‘on’ switches off the light ring on the purifier. Although it hasn’t happened to me, because the unit is so quiet, in night mode I can easily see some people forgetting to switch Wynd off when, for example, they leave their desk. So this is something you need to be aware of.
When it comes to crowdfunding, unfortunately it is all to common for half-finished buggy products to ship out. Or for products just falling by the wayside and not shipping out at all! We’ve all read some crowdfunding horror stories. Wynd couldn’t be more different. It comes across as a second or third generation product rather than a first generation crowdfunded gadget.
While the device itself works flawlessly, I did find the accompanying smartphone app to be a rather simple affair. It does provide the basics mind you.
The main screen shows you the current air quality, both indoors and out. Presumably, the software taps into a public service to obtain the outside reading. The second screen shows you the battery life and purification level (intensity of air flowing out). You will also find the Auto mode and Night mode options here as well as information on remaining filter life.
Each air quality tracker also acts as a node in a larger network of environmental sensors, helping to provide a larger, crowdsourced view of air quality within a neighborhood or community. If you click on the map icon along the bottom of the app screen, you will be taken through a separate app called Air Bubbles. This will show you a map of your surroundings with readouts from nearby Wynd sensors.
It would have been nice to have a bit more information on how effective Wynd is at its job, and perhaps some charts with historical trends. The company’s website does show this app functionality so I’m assuming its coming soon via a software update.
With hundreds of air purifiers on the market, it is not easy choosing the right one. Wynd is different from the competition in that it doesn’t purify all air, just the air around your head. It does this by using a clever combination of a detachable particulate matter sensor, bottle sized purification unit and accompanying smartphone app.
We spend a lot of time worrying about the quality of air outside, but it’s inside that we should really be concerned about. While Wynd is marketed as portable, the device works best when set up in a small, enclosed space. The medical-grade filter removes particulates, cat dander, mold, bacteria, and pollution in a matter of minutes.
Having used it for a few weeks, my impression is that this is a gadget that is most likely to appeal to those with desk jobs. I wouldn’t see myself carrying it around very much, but it was really great to have it gently blowing fresh air in my direction while I was working for hours on end on my computer. I could definitely feel a big difference.
I could also see it being useful for car trips or sitting on a nightstand bedsitter. For people suffering from allergies or those travelling to polluted areas, it might be a godsend.
Retailing at $199, the gadget is not exactly cheap, but when stacked up against other air purifiers the price is fairly competitive. Also, keep in mind that the initial cost is offset by the inexpensive, long-lasting filters.
All in all, Wynd seems like a really well thought out product. A lot of work has clearly gone into packing lots of great functionality into a small package.
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