You need help opening your windows

The air we breathe keeps us alive, but it can also kill us. There is nothing new about this fact; we are well aware that particulate pollution, as well as ozone, NOx and SOx levels can all affect our respiratory health. But one thing that has been largely overlooked is the fact that some of the most dangerous air pollution is found indoors rather than outdoors. Akshay Verma and Manu Dixit from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (CIID) have invented a small, modular device that opens and closes windows to adjust indoor air quality.

Two students from the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design, Akshay Verma and Manu Dixit, saw an opportunity to broaden our general perspective on air pollution. “Indoor air pollution is something that doesn’t come to most people’s minds when they think about health”, says Verma. Both Verma and Dixit are especially aware of the importance of clean air, as they hail from India where air quality in urban areas is particularly poor.

They invented an everyday object called Vāyu - a small, modular device that can be installed beside windows throughout the home. It monitors indoor and outdoor air quality with inbuilt sensors, and draws live weather data from the Internet. After taking these different variables into account, Vāyu devices open and close windows with a small lever, thereby adjusting indoor air quality when needed. 

Most people only open their windows when they remember to, and are highly unaware of the air quality both indoors and outdoors. In addition, pollution levels are not static but, rather, highly dynamic

Vāyu can also learn from a user’s behaviour and preferences: “It could either keep the windows closed if you’ve told it to, or air out your home before you get there so you come back to a fresh home”, says Verma. There are a number of products on the market for controlling indoor air quality. Air purifiers extract particles and dust, while humidifiers ensure the air doesn’t get too dry or humid.

But from their research, they found that most people valued fresh, outdoor air, so they set out to find a way of using that air to regulate indoor air quality. It is obvious to most people to open and close their windows to let in fresh air.

However, they don’t have the right data to know when their indoor air needs refreshing, or when to keep windows closed to avoid letting in external air pollution. “Millions and millions of people live in cities with highly polluted air”, says Dixit. “Most people only open their windows when they remember to, and are highly unaware of the air quality both indoors and outdoors. In addition, pollution levels are not static but, rather, highly dynamic.”

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, many indoor environments have pollutant levels two to five times higher than outdoor levels.

SPACE10
Flæsketorvet 10
1711 Copenhagen V
Denmark