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Foobot is a home air quality monitor that tracks fine particulates and volatile organic compounds in your home so you can make sure everyone in your family is breathing healthy air.
I’ve had issues with asthma and allergies all my life, and our boys had bouts as well as they grew up, so home air quality has always been a concern for us. We have an air purifier in our bedroom, which gives us a certain piece of mind, but if you can’t track the before and after of using such a device, how can you know if it’s really helping? Which is why I was interested when I was offered a Foobot to try out.
Foobot looks like either a variation on at Amazon Echo, or some kind of Bluetooth speaker, but it’s an air quality monitor that keeps track of some key factors that can cause respiratory problems. It will track particulate matter (dust and other physical irritants) from 0.3 µm to 2.5 µm. It will detect VOCs (volatile organic compounds) like Formaldehyde, Iso-Butane, Toluene, Methane, Ammonia, Benzene, and more. And it will track temperature and humidity. Using this continuously-sampled data, it can tell you whether the air you’re breathing is fine, or needs improvement in some way.
But wait, there’s more! Foobot is a smart device. Obviously it’s connected to your home network, and will send data, updates, and notifications to an app on your phone or tablet, but what’s really useful is that it will interface with Amazon Alexa, and products from Nest, Honeywell, and other. Plus, it has IFTTT integration, so based on the readings it gets, Foobot can trigger reactions from other devices in your home, enacting filtration, ventilation, or humidification to improve problems as they arise.
Testing at Home
To try it out, I set it up in our master bedroom. Each night, it was our habit to keep the doors closed, but we usually had a fan running, and the aforementioned air purifier. Setup was simple, as with most smart devices, and we went to bed with the cool blue glow of Foobot in the background (pro tip: reduce the brightness of the LED on Foobot on initial setup, or you may be overwhelmed by bright blue and orange lights overnight). Waking up a couple times through the night, the Foobot light had turned orange. Checking the app in the morning, we learned something that surprised us: our overnight air was lousy.
It turns out the combination of two humans and two dogs sleeping in a room with no doors or windows open, and thus pretty poor ventilation, ended up boosting the CO2 levels somewhat higher than it considered healthy. We were kind of shocked. We started testing leaving the window in the bath, and the main door to the room, open overnight, and we were able to get the readings back into a healthy range, and while it is only subjective, it seems like we’re sleeping a bit better.
The app is stylishly designed, and reasonably easy to use. The circular display of the main readouts is a little unintuitive, but it’s clear enough. Clicking through on any one of the numbers lets you see data accumulated over time, and can help you track down how certain measures change over the day or night, and look at trends over time (which is how we saw the issues we were having overnight)
Adding the Foobot skill to Alexa was as easy as any other connected gadget. At this point, all you can do is ask Alexa to ask the Foobot what the air quality is for the device, so the connectivity is relatively limited. It would be nice for Alexa to be able to ready you any notifications you get from the Foobot, but maybe that will happen in the future.
The Bottom Line
So, should you buy a Foobot? Priced at $199 per unit on Amazon, or at Foobot.io, this is not an inexpensive device, especially if you want to track air quality in multiple rooms around your house without moving a unit around. That being said, as geeks, when we want to deal with an issue, we want data to base our actions on, and there aren’t many similar tools around. There are a few that display current readings available for less money, but nothing with the level of integration that the Foobot has. So, if an easy-to-use, smart, and well-integrated air quality monitor sounds like a good idea for your home, Foobot is a good choice.
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