A connected device to help protect people from air pollution and its harmful effects.



I designed a connected device to measure air quality, keeping in mind the user’s everyday habits, routines and behaviours. This product was also an exercise in understanding feedback loops and providing users with simple and helpful interactions.


Duration: 3 weeks

Teammates: Solo Project

Project Advisors: Chris Risdon


Pollution, A Killer We Cannot See.

The 2017 northern California wine country fires caused more air pollution in 2 days than all vehicles in California produce in a year.


October 2017 saw record wildfires in Northern California which torched over 115,000 acres in California. Air quality levels in San Francisco reached ‘ very unhealthy’ levels. Smoke from wildfires pose a threat even in small quantities and the smallest particulate matter of PM2.5 are the biggest concern.  These particles penetrate deep into the lungs and cause inflammation, asthma attacks and over the long term, cancer. 

What I derived from it was that air pollution is largely an invisible killer. Humans are at a high health risk if we’re unable to detect the fluctuating pollution levels early on. 


“The smaller the pollution particulate matter is, the more likely it is to make you sick.”

- Jia Coco Liu, Postdoctoral researcher studying air quality after disasters at Johns Hopkins University

Source: Vox Media Inc.


How might we alert people of an invisible threat by giving them easy to understand visible cues?


The Current Scenario


People go about their busy days. Working, enjoying time in the sun, running etc


They only learn about the conditions of the air around them if they can see, smoke from a fire or smoke emitting from a vehicle.


They only learn about the conditions of the air around them if they can see, smoke from a fire or smoke emitting from a vehicle.


Future Scenario


People continue to go about their day engaging in activities they love. Jogging around the city, walking their dogs in the park, hurrying to a meeting downtown.


The Blu_Sky device gives the user an indication that all is not well around them. The air they are breathing is not as unpolluted as they think. They might be in danger of inhaling particulate matter.


They can then check the Blu Sky app to get necessary information about the air around them. The app also provides the user with clear and concise next steps


The Critical Components of the System

A system diagram to understand the feedback loops for the user. This also helped block out the critical components of the Blu Sky system.


Prototyping the Feedback System using Arduino


I used an Arduino Uno with Neopixel sticks and a vibration motor to block out the feedback loop that I would provide the user in case of polluted air. I prototyped a system that provided 3 States of feedback.

  1.  Everything is alright = Blue
  2. Things are okay but are getting bad = Yellow with 3 vibrations
  3. Things are really bad = Red with 6 vibrations. 

Conceptual Model of the System

How would users interact with the Blu Sky system? A diagram to understand the functions and flow of information on the Blu Sky device.


A Few Form Explorations

Trying to find the right form factor for an air pollution detection device. Is it a wearable? Does it live at home?


Physical Prototyping

Artboard 1 copy 42.jpg

The device needed to be fashionable enough that the user would want to wear it all the time. Also this largely being a prototyping exercise, we would need to keep costs in mind.

I required a material that would let the lights pass through without showing the guts of the device and still look like a finished product.

Was the second material that  was chosen for the casing. I wanted a classical look, bring some contrast to the white cast acrylic.


User Interface Design

Artboard 1 copy 4.jpg

Learnings & Next Steps

For the next steps, I would consider making a different form factor instead of the pendant. I would also only include the Blue state feedback after a Red state is activated.


Through some user testing i found that the shape of the pendant is not the most comfortable. Wearers will have to look down at their chest to see the device. A possible solution is a bracelet that can be worn on the wrist.


Including a feedback state for fresh air or clean air was only useful after a red state alert had been triggered. This would efficiently let the wearer know that they have moved beyond the polluted area and were okay to resume their regular activities.