Tzoa wearable turns you into a walking air-quality sensor

Unlike wearables that keep track of what's going on inside your body, this one sniffs the air and measures the sunshine to help you stay healthy.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

The Tzoa works with a smartphone app and cloud processing to let you know when the air around you is at its healthiest. Tzoa

To date, much wearable technology focused on looking inside our bodies to provide us with data about things like our heart rates and stress levels. A new kind of wearable, now approaching its final week of fundraising on Kickstarter, looks to the world that's just outside our bodies -- our environment.

Known as the Tzoa, the round device uses optical laser sensors to gauge the quality of the air around you, whether in your office or your neighborhood. It also keeps track of humidity levels in the air, as well as environmental UV levels. Armed with this data and the accompanying smartphone app, you can know if you need to open a window in your home, bike a different route to work, or get a bit more or a lot less sun.

That might all sound a bit too ho-hum to warrant the CAD$150 (about $131, £83, AU$157) pledge price, but there are two things you might want to take into consideration. First is the fact that you might think avoiding bad air is a matter of common sense, but that's not always the case. This comment from creators of the device, posted on an Endgadget report on the Tzoa sums it up nicely:

"People often believe that air pollution is common sense, like bicycling behind a diesel truck. Having used these sensors for a while now, it isn't very intuitive. There may be a restaurant nearby a park that is emitting large amount of particulates that we would have no idea of -- and it could be as simple as making the decision to start going to a different park."

The second is that the Tzoa also has a social-awareness component. When you activate your device, not only do you get information about your immediate surroundings, but that data feeds into the Tzoa cloud to produce community maps on the state of the environment. In short, you become your own EPA agent, taking air quality readings wherever you go. As that data gets compiled, you and the members of your community can get a better gauge on just how fresh the air is that you all breathe every day.

If you think that all sounds like a good idea, you have just eight days to snag your Tzoa, which unlike other wearables is actually designed to be worn on clothing or accessories like backpacks, belts, boots or purses. If the campaign reaches its goal (and there's still a bit of a way to go; it's about half-funded at this point), you can expect to receive your Tzoa in August 2015. Till then, light blue surgical masks?