Generally, the trends in the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) market mirror the technological and social trends happening outside the category. A desire for automation, smaller devices, green technology and cleaning air beyond traditional methods are giving rise to innovations and opportunities. While there is no single influencer in the IAQ space, given how large and differentiated it can be, there are several organizations and associations that set the overall direction- like the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).- and organizations that certify buildings with good IAQ standards. Several associations within the IAQ space certify a broad range of individual professionals.
1. Going beyond dipstick, inconvenient measuring to unobtrusive, continuous monitoring
- Traditional IAQ monitors were bulky and hard to move. They also only provided snapshots of air quality at certain intervals. This meant many consumers and businesses just didn’t monitor the quality, given the cost and inconvenience. The trend now is to re-engineer those monitors and take advantage of new technology to develop monitors that are smaller, cheaper, and are always monitoring air quality. This trend will only gain speed given the impact of the continuing minimization of technology, as well as the impact of IoT.
- TZOA is one example of a company leveraging this trend. Founded in 2014, TZOA’s monitor was between 90-96% accurate vs. a “gold standard machine” despite being only $400 vs. $40,000. They have a portable model that is the size of the face of a man’s wristwatch. Beyond that, they’ve expanded into home systems with air quality monitors, filter subscription and delivery, and can automatically control a home’s HVAC system.
- SenseWare is another company providing real-time IAQ sensors that are cheaper, easier to install, and monitor continuously.
2. Going beyond the basics of IAQ to specialized monitoring
- IAQ monitors are finding a competitive edge in the number of things they monitor. Many of the best now go beyond monitoring for PM2.5, CO2, and VOC. Because most monitors will not evaluate all possibilities, consumers are choosing monitors based on their comprehensiveness of coverage as well as their unique abilities.
- Airthings Wave Plus is one of the few monitors that check for Radon, one of the most common and deadly pollutants. Users can check the level manually by waving their hand in front of the monitor or on their smartphone. Should there be high levels of Radon, the device can send an alert or change the color of Philips Hue light bulbs.
- The AirMentor 2 can monitor the usual temperature and humidity, it can also monitor VOCs, CO2, PM 2.5, and PM 10. They claim a competitive advantage by citing their more accurate sensors. Per their claims, their 4 industrial-grade sensors are comparable to professional-grade equipment.
- Senseware also offers customizable sensors. Some things they can monitor include: temperature, relative humidity, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter (PM1, 2.5, 10), carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), formaldehyde (CH2O), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (O3), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). Their system is modular so the sensors can easily be swapped out for others or more advanced options.
3. Going beyond sensing to controlling
- The latest devices on the market combine two trends: the rise of always-on monitoring, and automation. These devices do not only report information to the user on-demand but can automatically take charge of the home environment to ensure air quality remains excellent.
- Tech Hive’s best air monitor for 2020, the Awair Glow C, can monitor humidity, temperature, and VOCs. Its defining feature, however, is the ability to turn any “dumb” appliance into it (ex. a fan or a dehumidifier), and it will automatically activate the appliance when it detects a rise in pollutants, on a schedule, or even just when someone enters the room.
- The Eve Room monitors air quality, but also temperature and humidity. It works with Apple’s Homekit, so any of the readings can be used to trigger an action– like adjusting the thermostat or turning on the air purifier at certain levels. In this way, the IAQ device becomes a seamless part of a smart home’s ecosystem.
4. Going beyond basic filtration- UV/PCO-based air filtration
- Other ways to keep indoor air healthy are becoming popular as they leverage green technologies. For example, UV germicidal irradiation cleaners use UV to expose VOCs to radiation that can nullify bacteria and other allergens. A more powerful option combines photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) technology-air filters with UV light. The hydroxyl radicals and superoxide ions created from this process destroy bacteria, allergens, and contaminants.
- Freshaire UV is a multi-awarded company that claims to be the world’s “leader in UV light disinfection for HVAC applications”.
- Vidashield is another company that uses UV light in a different application. While UV-C has traditionally been used to sterilize, it had limited use as it couldn’t be used in occupied spaces and would only work on items that were directly under its line of sight. Vidashield developed a patented technology that combines UV-C and filtration to draw in air, allowing it to be used in occupied spaces and “treat a volume of air equivalent to an 8’ x 10’ x 10’ room four times per hour”.
5. Going beyond addressing symptoms, to improving IAQ at the source
- There is an increasing awareness that air quality monitoring (and the corresponding solutions to an alert on bad air quality) are band-aids, rather than addressing the root of the problem which may be systemic. In line with this, there is a trend in dealing with air quality through addressing the materials and building construction itself rather than leaving residents and building users to mitigate the effects afterward.
- The International WELL Building Institute™ issues guidelines for buildings and offers the WELL Building Standard™, which certifies buildings based on how they enhance the health of the people who work within them.
- Manufacturers are also reformulating products to ensure they are less polluting. The Greenguard Environmental Institute certifies products that have been tested for over 10,000 chemicals.
- Dulux offers a PureAir range, which claims to “neutralize formaldehyde and reduces the amount of VOCs in the air”.
6. Industry Influencers/Associations
- Some associations that are influential in driving the future of the IAQ market are the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
- The Environmental Protection Agency is also important. It doesn’t regulate indoor air quality but does have education and advocacy around indoor air pollutants.
- While IAQ is a broad field, there are several certifying bodies for professionals. These include the American Industrial Hygiene Association and the American Indoor Air Quality Council.
- Internationally, one of the biggest associations is the International Society of Indoor Air Quality and Climate (ISIAQ). They provide a multidisciplinary association with conferences and a newsletter.
In order to come up with this trend list, we consulted an array of trade publications, device websites and reviews, and professional association publications.