Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people across the world every year. The World Health Organisation states that air pollution is the single most considerable environmental health risk people face. One of the biggest factors affecting India's fight against air pollution is the lack of accurate measurement. Various methods have been used to monitor air quality- from large monitoring stations costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to satellite imagery.
So far, there has been little or no success when it comes to an acceptable level of accuracy and granularity. Outside of major cities and metros, there is minimal air quality measurement. This indicates a lack of awareness of the quality of air people breathe, its impact on health, and whether the solutions implemented are improving air quality. Traditional methods of air quality monitoring, on the other hand, are expensive, lack accuracy and are economically not viable.
To solve this issue, Ambee-an environmental intelligence startup was started to make air quality data accessible at a postcode level to everyone.
Founded in 2017 by Madhusudan Anand, Akshay Joshi and Jaideep Singh Bachher, Ambee is a climate intelligence company that is on a mission to help people and businesses assess, prepare and mitigate the effects of air pollution and climate change.
The Bengaluru-based startup builds hyperlocal climate data and intelligence in real-time worldwide. Using proprietary data science, it provides location-specific, real-time data and actionable insights on air quality, weather, pollen, and other environmental factors.
The app provides personalised, location-based air quality updates, accurate hyperlocal pollen readings, sends out alerts in case of higher pollution levels and provides updates on other environmental factors such as temperature hikes, rainfall, and a seven-day weather forecast for a user's location of choice.
The platform's data can be integrated into healthcare devices, fitness apps, air purifiers, smart cities, office spaces and homes. Ambee works with organisations across aviation, home appliances, big data, utilities, pharma, and insurance.
How It Started?
The idea for Ambee came about when one of the co-founders, Madhusudhan Anand's six-month-old baby, had a life-threatening breathing problem due to air pollution. In his quest to understand the issue, Anand began monitoring air quality in and around his residence. He found that the nearest air quality monitoring station was located 13 kms away from his house, and it suggested that the air quality around the monitoring station was under the healthy category.
To better understand the air quality in his immediate surroundings, he built a rudimentary air quality sensor that could give him real-time information about the air quality around his house. As per the readings in his air quality sensors, he found that the particulate matter (PM2.5) readings near his home were touching dangerous levels of 800 ug/m3.
"PM2.5 is smaller than human hair and these are inhalable particles that cause severe health issues. Unless there is a way to measure and monitor this at a hyperlocal/street-by-street level, there is no other way to mitigate the risks they pose," Madhusudhan Anand, CTO and co-founder, Ambee told The Logical Indian.
"Air quality differs every few kilometres. The air one breathes is a direct indicator of immediate and long-term health. Small changes in air pollution are proven to increase the risk of health diseases significantly. We started Ambee to measure and democratise access to environmental data, and mitigate the risks of climate change," he added.
Challenges And Roadblocks
Anand said that one of the key challenges they faced was the kind of misconceptions people had about air pollution a few years ago. Most businesses and people did not acknowledge how air pollution and other environmental factors affect each person. He said that better air quality data could help people make healthier choices at an individual level.
"For example, for those of us that ride to work, the ability to 'see' pollution on the way may well incentivise us to choose a route that is two minutes longer, but noticeably cleaner. For the runners and joggers among us, picking a cleaner path or choosing the right time to jog makes a large difference to our overall health. One could start making decisions on where to rent a house or office, looking at historical environmental data," he explained.
The entrepreneur believes that the ability to use air quality data is not limited to individuals alone. Citing examples, he pointed out that an insurer could work with policyholders, helping them improve their health and reduce risk, all based on what they breathe. Drug formulations could be developed and tested better and faster if environmental data was considered. Real estate companies would pick cleaner neighbourhoods for development and would also be sure to stick to best practices in construction, ensuring that the area remains clean.
"When we began Ambee, very few people understood the importance of accurate environmental data. Now, we get inbound interest from customers. It's heartening to see the change in perception," Anand expressed.
Over 1 Lakh Users
The app has received an overwhelming response with over 1,00,00 downloads and users. On the B2B front, the startup works with Fortune 500 companies such as Bosch, Airbus and a host of other large corporations. Recently, Ambee has launched Gspatial.ai to provide historical air quality and weather data to businesses and governments across more than 70 countries. The service includes street-by-street hourly air quality and weather data spanning 20 years.
"We will soon launch another product for Smart Farming Data. Our mission is to improve not only the health of millions of people but also the planet itself by developing products that can impact those affected by climate change," Anand said.
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