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A personal air-quality tracker that lets you know what you're breathing | Romain Lacombe

TED Talks Daily podcast.

September 26

How often do you think about the air you're breathing? Probably not enough, says entrepreneur and TED Fellow Romain Lacombe. He introduces Flow: a personal air-quality tracker that fits in your hand and monitors pollution levels in real time. See how this device could help you track and understand pollution street by street, hour by hour -- and empower you to take action to improve your health.

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this Ted Talk features environmental entrepreneur Romain Lacombe recorded live at Ted 2018. Support for Ted is Brought to You by Wells Fargo. This is a commitment to better banking. This is Wells Fargo.


So for the past 12 years, I've been obsessed with this idea that climate change is an information issue that computers will help us fight. I went from data science to climate policy research from tech to public service and pursued off better data to avoid the wasted energy resource is opportunities that lead to runaway carbon emissions. Until one day, running in the streets with a friend, it had me the same cars, factories, power plants whose emissions are wrecking our climate over time. Also release harmful local pollutants. That threat on our health right here and right now all this time had focused on the long term environmental risk when I should have been up in arms about the immediate health impact off pollutants in the air. Air pollution is a burning public health crisis. If kills seven million people every year, it costs $5 trillion to the world economy. And worst, it robs us off our most precious gift. The years in our lives. Six months off,

life expectancy in my hometown off Paris and up 2345 years in parts of India and China and in the US, more people die from car exhaust than from car accidents. So how do we protect ourselves from pollution? The reason it's difficult is an information gap. We simply lack the data to understand our exposure. And that's because the way we monitor air quality today is designed nuts to help people breathe. But to help governments govern, most major cities operate networks of air quality monitoring stations like this one in London to decide when to cut traffic or when to shut down factories. And these machines, like the computers from the sixties that filled entire rooms. They're incredibly precise but incredibly large, heavy, costly so much that you can only deployed just a few of them and they cannot move. City government's air pollution looks like this. But for the rest of us, air quality looks like this.

It changes all the time, our by our street by street, up to eight times within a single city block and even more from indoor to outdoor. So unless you happen to be walking right next to one of the stations. They just cannot tell you what you breathe. So what would environmental protection look like if it was designed for the age of the smart one? It's for the best three years. My team and I have been building a technology that helps you know what you breathe and fits in your hand. Flow is a personal air quality tracker that you can wear with you on the back back bike stroller. It's packed with miniature sensors that money to the most important pollutants in the air around you, like nitrogen oxides, the exhaust gases from cars or particular matter that gets into your bloodstream and create strokes and heart issues or volatile organic compounds. The thousands of chemicals in everyday products that we end up breathing and that makes this data actionable and helps you understand what you're breathing by telling you where and when you've been exposed to poor air quality. In that way, you can make informed decisions to take action against pollution. You can change the products you use at home.

You can find the best route to cycle to work. You can run when pollution is not peeking, and you can find the best park to bring your Children out all the time. You build better habits to decrease your exposure to pollution and by tracking air quality around them. Cyclists, commuters, parents will also contribute to mapping air quality in their city. So we're building more than a device but a community. And last summer we sent early prototypes off our technology 200 volunteers in London, and together they mapped air quality across 1000 miles off sidewalk and 20% of all of central London. So our goal now is to scale this work around the world to crowdsource data so we can map air quality on every street to build an unprecedented database so scientists can research pollution and to empower citizen civic leaders policymakers to support clean air polices for change. Because of this can and must change remember cigarettes in bars. It took decades off lung cancer research and secondhand smoking studies, but eventually we reached a tipping point and we passed smoking ban laws. We must reach the same tipping point for air quality, and I believe we will.

In the past couple years alone, governments have find carmakers record amounts for cheating on emissions standards. Cities have passed congestion charges will build bike lanes like Paris that turned this highway right, thanks to my home in the middle of the city into a waterfront park. And no mayors around the world are thinking of banning diesel outright by 2025 2030 2035. But how much faster could we go? How many lives could we save? Technology alone will not solve climate change, nor will it make air quality disappear overnight. What it can make the quality of our air much more transparent. And if we can empower people to take action to improve their own health, then together we can act to bring an end to our pollution. Thank you very much.


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