Start up cleantech Airy aims to help communities around the world improve air quality with affordable sensors and software that provide actionable insights. The startup, based in London and Krakow, announced today that it has raised $5.5 million.
The round was led by firstminute capital and Pi Labs, with the participation of returning investors such as Sir Richard Branson Family Office, AENU and Untitled. New investors include Cal Henderson, one of Slack’s co-founders, Snowflake co-founder Marcin Zukowki, and institutional investors Semapa Next and TO Ventures. This brings Airly’s total amount raised to $8.8 million as of March 2021.
Airly is currently used by more than 500 local authorities in more than 40 countries, with 5,000 of its sensors covering a total of 40,000 active measurement points. Cities include Warsaw, where Airly has installed 165 sensors, which the company claims is the largest air quality monitoring network in Europe. It also has networks of sensors in cities in the UK and Indonesia.
So far, Airly has entered into strategic partnerships with JCDecaux, NHS, NILU (Norwegian Institute for Air Research). It is also collaborating with the DivAirCity project, which is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020.
Airly plans to build a dashboard that will allow users to track more data and understand how air quality affects health and how it can be improved. It includes a report generator, insights, impact tracker and city ranking. With an online map and mobile apps, people in a community can monitor all the air quality around them based on Airly’s data.
Airly started after co-founder and CEO Wiktor Warchalowski and two of his friends at the AGH Technical University of Krakow were training for a marathon.
“During our training, we found it difficult to deal with the intensity and realized it had to do with air pollution,” he told australiabusinessblog.com. “So we came up with a system with our own air quality sensors to tell us where the cleanest air was and we used those rooms for our training.”
After realizing that other people had the same problem, they started building the Airly platform to monitor real-time air quality.
State air quality stations are usually only affordable for large cities, Warchalowski explained, and because they’re expensive, there are often only three to five covering large swaths of land. Not only that, but they usually have a delay of several hours in reporting data.
Airly wants to solve that problem with affordable sensors that are easy to install, so you can be on every street in a city. They also send data to Airly’s app every five minutes so that air quality can be monitored in real time.
The platform’s insights help communities measure real-time health risks from poor air quality, based on WHO standards or illegal emissions. It analyzes trends to identify sources of pollution and provides recommendations on how to improve air quality. For example, it can tell communities whether to introduce low-emission zones, a solid fuel ban, and green school streets. It also tracks improvements once those measures are taken.
A few examples of how Airly has been used include the #LetSchoolsBreathe campaign in the UK, where Airly’s monitors have been installed in 50 schools. It also helped a major city in Central Europe get evidence that the combustion-free zones were working as planned. Communities have used data collected by Airly to lobby local governments to take action on air quality.
“On a macro scale, our data has repeatedly become an incentive to change local policies in terms of reducing solid fuel use, car traffic or influencing local polluters,” Warchalowski said. “Airly supports organizations in their quest to eliminate pollution, improve air quality and protect public health as the data is the first step towards pollution-free cities and communities. You cannot control what you cannot measure.”
Airly currently has 500 paying customers and operates on a sensing-as-a-service model. Customers pay an annual subscription based on the number of nodes they have access to, and prices start from $540 per node per year. There is a one-time setup fee for installing devices.
One of Airly’s main competitors is Breezometer, which (https://www.geektime.com/google-acquires-breezometer/) was acquired by Google in September. Breezometer’s competitive advantage is the broad coverage of the air quality network, which spans over 100 countries and has a resolution of five meters. But Breezometer’s isn’t able to provide the hyperlocal insights that Airly can, Warchalowski said. Another competitor is Clarity, which is also building an end-to-end air quality and control platform with software and hardware. But Airly has a broader package of polluting measures and also provides recommendations based on data.
Airly will use its new funding for research and development and to expand into new markets.
In a statement about the funding, Founders Fund and firstminute capital co-founder and executive chairman Brent Hoberman said: “Trailblazers in London show how real-time local air quality data is the catalyst for taking action to make our urban spaces healthier and more sustainable. I expect many cities and local authorities to follow their lead, starting with more precise and local data. Airly is at the forefront of building this data infrastructure and our fight against air pollution, and we are very proud to continue our support through co-lead their Series A.”