Monitoring and visualising indoor air quality with Foobot
With the rise of the health and wellbeing agenda, monitoring and visualising the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) of the workplace is emerging as a key objective for many.
Some smart buildings already have expensive state of the art IEQ monitoring in place. But what if you don’t find yourself in this situation and need to set up a system from scratch? You could go out and procure said ‘state of the art’ system at significant expense. However, if you are budget-constrained, you may find yourself looking toward the more cost efficient, ‘consumer-grade’ end of the IEQ monitoring spectrum…
Now, we know there are considerable limitations with certain consumer-grade IEQ monitoring devices – including their level of calibration and, ultimately, accuracy. However, for this blog we would like to set this issue aside and focus on the practicalities of installing and monitoring indoor air quality through a popular consumer-grade monitoring device: Foobot.
With an interest in air quality, one of our consultants found Foobot. Foobot is a low-cost air quality monitoring tool which can interface with internet-based apps to log air quality and also help you to do something about it.
Setting up Foobot is easy. Once you’ve unboxed and plugged the monitor in, you need to download the Foobot app to an Android or iPhone smart phone. After registering on the app, it will then allow you to connect to the monitor. Once connected, you can then monitor Foobot readings wherever you are. For easy comprehension, Foobot gives you a headline air quality score, which is made up of several readings including carbon dioxide, particulates, and humidity.
The main Foobot phone screen, showing an air quality score (50+ is poor)
Data and API
As well as the app, Foobot supplies an API, which can be used to extract data from your monitor for your own use. To get the data you basically fire various URLs to the API, which include an API key supplied by Foobot, that will return data. This is quite advanced stuff for those who want to build their own mini applications. An easier way to do this would be to use something called IFTTT.
Connect Foobot up to other apps using IFTTT
A useful website www.ifttt.com (If this then that) has lots of applets; readymade code snippets that are based on a trigger (this) and an action (that). Handily there’s a few setup already for Foobot. For our Foobot (named Evorabot) we have used two – one to log readings to a google spreadsheet and the other to message a reading when you physically tap the monitor twice.
The Foobot applets listed on the IFTTT website.
To use IFTTT, first you need to register as a new user on the site. This can be done using a Facebook or Google login or a login specifically for IFTTT. Once registered you can then set up applets.
To setup an applet is simple.
- You choose the applet you want to use (Foobot/Twitter/Instagram).
- You then click on the trigger part of the applet (The ‘this’).
- This will prompt you to connect a Foobot device.
- To connect your Foobot to the IFTTT site, you just need to enter the login you created when you registered your Foobot using the mobile app.
- Once it is registered you can use any of the Foobot triggers for the ‘this’ part of the applet.
- For the ‘that’ part, we first used a connection to a Google drive account to log each reading made by our Foobot to a google sheet. This graph is a google sheets graph, plotting CO2 output in the Evora office.
An example Co2 graph of the Evora office
We now use an IFTTT applet which logs a reading to one of our Slack channels (the app we use for internal communications with the team). The Foobot reading is triggered by someone tapping/knocking on the device which then posts a message in the appropriate conversation.
The knock knock Foobot app in action
Hacks to the future
The great thing about Foobot is that its already collaborating with other technologies to create complete solutions. This includes linking to Nest to enable more ventilation if air quality gets too bad. These hacks enable both offices and homes to create Smart ventilation, keeping poor air quality in check.
We may well explore this solution for our office. For now, when the air quality gets bad, we open some windows!