Meet The Founder: AirSensa, Big Data Powering Global Health

Meet The Founder: AirSensa, Big Data Powering Global Health

28th July 2020 by Michaela Salomon

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With the world adjusting to a new, post-pandemic normal, the need for individuals to raise their health baseline has never been more important. For health food and vitamin brands, digital healthcare services and more, demand has surged. AirSensa is tackling a more silent, but detrimental threat: air pollution. 

In the wake of the crisis, respiratory wellness has taken centre stage. AirSensa is building a big data platform that analyses the air quality in different locations, allowing individuals, businesses and government bodies to make better, more informed decisions. AirSensa is over 110% funded on Seedrs.

We sat down with founder and CEO Jonathan Steel to find out how the company plans to scale to meet the demands of a changed world.

What is AirSensa all about?

AirSensa is a globally scalable, unique and proprietary platform collecting hyperlocal, real-time environmental data based around, but not limited to, air quality. We are a data company and not limited to any particular sensor technology, so we can always deploy the best available hardware for the required outcome. Our cloud platform (STORRM) provides autonomous management, security, and machine learning capabilities which, combined with our world-leading calibration model, makes AirSensa unique in being able to acquire validated data from sensor networks of any scale.

What first gave you the idea for the company?

My consulting company, The Bathwick Group, helped IBM stage a sustainability conference (the IBM Summit at Start, with the Prince of Wales) in 2010. On the first day, I heard about the massive health burden of air pollution (at least 40,000 people dying early in the UK alone). I was shocked. No-one was talking about air pollution at that time, so I was completely unaware of it. Following that conference, Gary Barnett and I worked out how we might address the need for much better, actionable data, which resulted in a project that eventually became AirSensa.

What is the competitive landscape and how does AirSensa compare?

The competitive environment can be summed up in three segments – major suppliers, sensor makers, and data scrapers.

Major companies and incumbents stick primarily with the traditional way of monitoring air quality which ticks regulatory boxes but doesn’t produce real, usable, hyperlocal data. Many of these players are only really interested in selling larger solutions (such as traffic management solutions) or consultancy. 

Sensor makers are focused on their own hardware and range from the very low-cost level (which are all but useless) up to mid-priced equipment, which is better but (as hardware makers) unsuited for large-scale deployment as there is generally little or no data platform or calibration capability.  

Data scrapers just take open source data (such as that produced by Defra) and put it in a pretty app. The data is all modelled and again, isn’t real-time, hyperlocal, or actionable. 

AirSensa is the only company that offers the best available hardware, deployable and manageable at massive scale, to create a platform-based solution which can be used by local authorities to reduce costs and help create a healthier environment for us all.

What interesting new products have you released recently?

We recently developed a product that supports corporate efforts to improve ESG reporting and reduce future liabilities by generating much richer data about their pollution footprints. We’ve also recently launched an app which was originally designed to help support recovered Covid patients. We’ve since continued development for it to support a wide range of chronic health conditions through a combination of sensor-based data acquisition and direct real-time patient feedback.  

What has been one of the most significant successes for the business?

There have been a number of significant milestones, including building the exemplar networks in Manchester and Jersey, but perhaps the most significant successes to date relate to our commercial and academic partnerships, which are providing strong access to market, and augmenting our expertise in a number of scientific and analytical areas.

What new products/features/partnerships do you have upcoming?

We are launching internal monitoring for large real estate owners. Utilising our unique approach to a platform solution, we can provide real estate owners, managers, and occupants with key data relating to air quality and safety across a wide variety of building types, and very large estates.  This is very important today as companies and their employees want to ensure that their workspaces are healthy and productive environments. We are also in discussions on several more corporate partnerships, some of which we will announce in the coming months.

What will be the greatest challenge going forward?

As with aany scaleup, there are always a number of structural challenges around skills and process development. Perhaps the greatest challenge is ensuring we stick with our core goals, given the number and diversity of opportunities that exist in the marketplace.

What will be the primary use of proceeds from this round?

This round will help us continue product development, team building, and convert our discussions with potential customers and channel partners into contracts and revenues.

We’re looking forward to bringing on Seedrs investors for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a chance to gain ideas and development opportunities from a wide variety of supporters, and secondly, we hope that our investors will help us to continue to spread the word about the importance of what AirSensa is doing. As the expression goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure; governments the world have never measured air pollution properly before, but they now have a chance to. More supporters spreading the word about that opportunity can only be beneficial for all of us.

What’s one thing you’re still learning?

The day you stop learning is the day you should do something else.  At the moment, I’m learning to master simpler communications – falling attention spans makes marketing a business more like running a political campaign every day.

What was one silver lining to lockdown?

Peoples’ willingness to take online meetings. It’s more time-efficient in 90% of cases, so you can improve productivity greatly if you approach it the right way.

What are you doing when you’re not working?

Lockdown and the lack of business travel has given my children the dubious pleasure of spending more time with me, and video streaming services have enabled me to catch up on some great content that I would otherwise have missed.

To find out more about AirSensa, visit the pitch.

Michaela Salomon

Michaela Salomon

Campaign Support Team

Digital Agency Kent