Recording air quality in Abiramapuram

Giridharan Kesavan

As a tech geek since childhood, I always wanted to have more gizmos than the average Indian home had! I would always take some risks by buying a gizmo before it even became known to people.

Sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t.

An internet firewall for the home network, a remote-controlled ceiling fan for mom, a remotely-operated main door electronic lock…. The list goes on.

The ‘firewall’ came from the USA – purchased at the local equivalent of Ritchie Street somewhere in New York. Affordable, unbranded, no warranty. But would work. And it has been! Anything coming through the internet has to get past this wall. It protects all computers, smartphones and tablets, smart TVs – anything that connects to the World Wide Web.

The remote-controlled ceiling fan for mom is more local, from Atomberg, which itself was founded by students from a great brand – IIT. Certainly, more expensive than normal fans, but worth every
rupee you pay for it. I have the most basic model. More expensive ones come with some sort of an underlight and so on.

Recently, Purelogic Labs offered a free Air Quality Monitor for people willing to host it at their home. This made me jump and grab the opportunity – since it would help a social cause. It would let people know the quality of air in all localities where such devices were hosted.

Purelogic Labs was founded by an environmental enthusiast, Rohit Bansal, who wanted to spread awareness about the air quality to everyone, while making people be a part of the drive. He and his team started this crowd-sourcing approach and gave away the free monitors.

The monitor is about the size of 2 smartphones put together. It has been fabricated and assembled using inexpensive components, at their lab. The free giveaway was for a limited period in September 2018. They may still be giving these monitors, though for a price (which I don’t know). Details can be found at

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has some of their own devices at specific places, but they are not enough to cover all of TN or even Chennai.

On the other hand, the crowd sourcing monitors have been distributed all over India. At last count there were over 400!

The device at my home went live in October 2018, and has been ‘broadcasting’ air quality in my locality (Abiramapuram) ever since. It has helped me see the highs and lows of the Air Quality Index (AQI). It has also shown how continuous awareness campaigns can help. This year, on the occasion of Bhogi, the AQI was surprisingly in the good range.
Believe it or not, the highest AQI seen on Bhogi 2022 at my home was 34!

That is not the best AQI I have seen. A few days after the nationwide lockdown, towards the end of March 2020, the AQI was 8 – once-in-a-lifetime reading. So good was the air. AQI of less than 50 is nice to have, and a dream. But it does not come true often.

As the AQI gets progressively worse, we can protect ourselves by wearing masks, particularly when we are out in the open. This doesn’t seem difficult, after nearly two years of masking due to the Corona virus.

What next? Air quality cameras, that ‘show’ the quality of air, and help us to correlate to the AQI. Two cameras are being tested – one in Delhi, and another at my home. We hope they will go live soon.

  • Giridharan Kesavan is a Mylaporean for life, tech geek, traveller, foodie and entrepreneur