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Bristol start-up Altitude Tech's sensor could help cities improve air quality

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Written by: Gavin Thompson | Posted 20 October 2015 12:30

Bristol start-up Altitude Tech's sensor could help cities improve air quality

Plenty of good ideas have been sparked in a conversation down the pub. Not so many have gone on to be successful businesses.

Sam Nwanko, pictured, hopes to achieve just that and at the same time, and somewhat more importantly, play a part in improving air quality in our cities.

Sam and his friends founded Altitude Tech and developed air quality monitor Sensly, which they hope to put into production soon.

The process has already been an “amazing learning experience” for the young entrepreneur.

He said: “We had all worked for start-ups and were inspired by our bosses to create our own business and develop our ‘Sensly’ product concept, an indoor air quality sensor that uses onboard gas sensors to detect a wide range of harmful compounds.”

The formula of the team is that they each have different backgrounds and skills, from engineering and design to business and marketing.

“We all share a passion for technology and have a common goal to create products that people need,” he said. “We took a scientific approach to running a business to accomplish our goal, formulating assumptions that we could test in the real world, as we realised early on that we needed feedback from the general public to validate our ideas.”

They started with the simple that the air we breathe is important.

“While on average we can survive three weeks without food and three days without water,” Sam said, “we can only survive three minutes without air.

“We also assumed that people care about their air quality. However, current air quality monitors aren’t very simple and are rather expensive.”

Sensly air quality monitor developed by Altitude Tech

The Sensly idea was born. Using the onboard sensor information, the device is can give real-time notifications and visual alerts about surrounding air quality.

It also enables people to share their data and use this information, which they hope will be used to improve their surrounding air quality.

“On a global scale, Sensly can enable cities to dynamically plan their growth,” said Sam. No lack of ambition then.

The start-up has got to this point in no small part thanks to support from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory’s Technology Business Incubator, based at the University of the West of England.

The team all worked for companies there and pitched their idea to its innovation manager Jill Burnett.

“We were granted some desk space within the incubator,” said Sam. “We also obtained a grant from the University of the West of England to help us set up our business.

“Using the resources we obtained from UWE and BRL we developed our prototype. We then took the idea to Kickstarter the crowd-funding platform to validate our assumptions and test the market.

“The response was amazing, we hit our funding goal within seven days and raised over £33,000 by the end of the campaign.”

He added: “None of this would have been possible if it wasn’t for the assistance given by BRL and UWE, and the schemes and opportunities available within the South West. The region exemplifies the nation’s drive to create a better, more connected tomorrow, striving to support and accelerate the efforts of those within the community that want to contribute to building a better future.”

The team has developed a product, tested the market and is preparing for mass manufacture.

“Our next step will be to ship our Sensly air quality product to all of our Kickstarter backers,” said Sam. “Then, hopefully, we start working with cities like Bristol to create a mesh network of Senslys that can inform us on the overall air quality in our communities, so we can begin the public debate on how best to improve our air quality together.”

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