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Environment / Startups

Airviz Inc. wants to help Pittsburghers breathe easier

As a part of PGH Labs newest cohort, Airviz CEO Ian Magazine told Technical.ly that working with the city is a huge step in commercializing its products as well as helping residents. 

Airviz Inc. CEO and President Ian Magazine. (Courtesy photo)

While the Steel City has gained acclaim for its sports teams and universities, let’s face it — Pittsburgh’s air quality can leave a lot to be desired. The city has come a long way since the days it was called the “City of Smoke,” but as of 2022, Pittsburgh remains No. 14 on the American Lung Association’s list of the 25 worst cities in the country in terms of fine particle pollution.

Oakland-based Carnegie Mellon University spinout Airviz Inc. is a PGH Labs 8.0 cohort participant that wants to improve air quality for the city’s residents so they can breathe easier.

“A lot of people forget about the importance of air and what you breathe,” Airviz President and CEO Ian Magazine told Technical.ly. “We monitor what we eat, and what we drink, but not what we breathe, and those costs are colossal.”

Magazine added that long-term and short-term exposure to air pollution have been linked to diseases such as lung cancer, pneumonia and ischemic heart disease.  In the case of Allegheny County, studies have found that air quality was linked to higher instances of asthma-related hospital visits for children in the area.

So, what can Airviz do to help? For starters, the company is developing tools that will help with the detection, understanding and enhancement of air quality in the City of Pittsburgh. They come in the form of environmental sensors called the Combo+ and DUO PM300 which are designed to monitor air quality and provide assessments of the toxicity of pollution present respectively. Additionally, Airviz offers pollution mapping networks that can be integrated with building management systems at large companies.

Airviz Inc. Sensors. (Courtesy photo)

In years past, the company has focused its efforts on research in partnership with CMU, developing its technology and securing a series of patents for its products and services. With the groundwork laid, this year it plans to move toward commercializing its devices, Magazine said. Being able to work with the city through PGH Labs will be a significant part of the company’s commercialization strategy in 2023.

“The city will provide us access to valuable resources that we wouldn’t necessarily have and assistance to understand how [the] government works,” Magazine said. “I think that’s really important for us, and to better understand the city’s needs to help improve the community and make a positive social impact.”

Magazine explained that some of the company’s pending partnerships can’t be shared yet, but there have been a handful of successful implementations of its environmental sensors already. Typically, in addition to large companies, users of the sensors would include facilities with related needs such as industrial painting, pharmaceutical manufacturing, food processing or hospitals. Prior to its acceptance into the city’s accelerator program, one of Airviz’s major partnerships included its work with UPMC Magee-Womens hospital which used the company’s sensors and analysis tools to study the impact of air quality on prenatal health.

“The research shows how air quality correlates with pregnant mothers, and birth complications specifically such as increased miscarriages, premature births, low birth rates, birth weights and being born with a disability,” Magazine said. “So we’re really proud of that [partnership].”

What else does 2023 hold for the company? According to Magazine, the current six-person operation will be seeking out funding. In the meantime, he said the company is excited about PGH Labs and the good he hopes both the city and the company will get out of the partnership.

“It definitely exceeded my expectations,” Magazine said. “The initial meeting and spending and getting to spend time with the mayor, as well as the people that we work with has just been a great experience. And again, we’re really early on, but we’re really looking forward to working closely with the city and the people that we’ve met so far.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: City of Pittsburgh

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