Software Development
Climate change / cloud / Software

Meet the local company that helped DC Public Schools navigate the wildfire smoke

Vienna, Virginia's Attune monitors air quality for schools across the company and helped inform schools last week on whether or not they should remain open.

Attune's air quality dashboard. (Courtesy photo)

As DC suffered under last week’s smog courtesy of Canadian wildfires, a local internet of things (IoT) company took a key role in the conversation on how to move forward.

Attune, formerly Senseware, is an IoT developer for commercial buildings and schools that collects data on indoor air quality, water and more to help operations. During the height of last week’s haze, this was the company monitoring the quality of several DC Public Schools, helping determine whether or not students should come to class that day.

Attune deployed monitors that measure temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels and particulate matter in workspaces, schools and commercial buildings. CTO Julien Stamatakis said that once data is collected, it is sent to the cloud and customers can look at it in real-time via online dashboards. From there, they can see if any parameters are exceeded, as well as assess if it’s safe for students or workers to come in that day.

This is particularly important in schools, Stamatakis said, because many have antiquated systems that might not clean out air as well as more modern ones.

“Schools are usually older buildings with older HVAC systems, and so knowing in real-time what’s going on and helping make decisions were really critical,” Stamatakis told Technical.ly.

In addition to deciding whether or not students should attend school, real-time monitoring can also help with everyday operations. It can show whether or not the amount of outside air coming in needs to be reduced and whether filters, such as the HEPA ones made critical last week, are working properly. During the prior week, the Attune systems were able to show the particle level indoors and address any issues in the schools.

“Even before kids went to school, they were able to see that there was something happening and take action there — and then, also immediately, see the effects of any mitigation that were doing,” Stamatakis said.

One noteworthy outcome from last week’s data reporting, he said, was that for some buildings, the external conditions made no impact. Attune’s monitors could see that while the outdoor levels were off the charts, in newer systems, nothing changed. According to Stamatakis, this demonstrated that many of the mitigation techniques put in place during COVID-19 were working.

For Stamatakis, continued real-time monitoring is really important because wildfires and events like the COVID-19 pandemic will keep happening. Moreover, conditions change every day (or, really, by the hour or even minute), so constant updates are key.

“Air quality matters from a development point of view, a community point of view and a health point of view — especially for kids because they’re younger, they’re still growing,” Stamatakis said. “So it’s really important to know what they’re breathing.”

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