August 16, 2019

Five for Friday: Breathe easy with these innovations

Breathe easy, Finland has you covered.
Breathe easy, Finland has you covered.
Julia Bushueva

Finland has some of the best air quality in the world but also some of the most state-of-the-art technologies to tackle impurities. These Finnish innovators will take your breath away with their life-changing solutions!

Clean air and healthy indoor air quality are becoming more of a luxury than a guarantee in places around the world. The global air purification market hovers around 29 billion dollars and has no intention of decreasing anytime soon, quite the contrary.

Meanwhile, technology is catching up with the challenges and the future of chronic respiratory diseases may look brighter than you thought with these air purification solutions.

Air0

Air0 is the brainchild of co-founder and CTO Markku Rajala, an inventor with over 500 patents under his belt. The inspiration came on a visit to China in 2013, following a realisation of the scale of the air purification challenge in the country. Rajala developed an air purification technology that uses looser fibres compared to traditional methods, which are powered with an electric booster. The result was a machine with an extraordinary cleaning efficiency and air flow rate, which nowadays is one of the company’s competitive edges.

“We knew we had a great technology, but since our competitors in China are big companies like Haier and Samsung we had to pick our target group very carefully,” explained co-founder and CEO Valle Kulmala. “There is less competition in the business market, and our products stand out even better there because of the amount of air they can clean.”

The Espoo-based company is heading for full automation and is currently rolling out its cloud-based solution, capable of constant and automatic monitoring and adjustment of the purifiers according to air quality.

“Our long-term goal is to be the globally leading air quality company. Not necessarily in terms of turnover, but we want to be the innovator and trendsetter in the industry,” said Kulmala.

Naava

The Helsinki-based healthtech company Naava provides smart and green active walls that not only look good, but also purify indoor air and optimise humidity, resulting in a healthier working environment and more active employees.

“The idea of the active plant wall – Fresh Wall – developed by us is to circulate indoor air through the root zone in the plant wall. At the same time, the fans located in the top part of the wall blow clean air back into the room. The Fresh Wall can also be used to optimise indoor air humidity by controlling water evaporation, for example,” co-founder Niko Järvinen explained to us back in 2014, when the startup was only taking its first steps under the name Naturvention.

Hard work has paid off and Naava has recently closed distribution deals in South Korea, the UK and North America. Naava has also begun a crowdfunding round and stated plans for an IPO in 2020-2021. Naava’s intention is to revolutionise not one, but three global markets: the nine billion-dollar interior landscaping market, the 29 billion-dollar air purification market and the 50 billion-dollar office furniture market.

“As urbanisation picks up speed, we want to offer people living in the world’s metropolises the chance to breathe clean natural air with the help of Naava’s technology,” envisioned co-founder and CEO Aki Soudunsaari. “Poor indoor air has severe harmful effects on the health of millions of people every day. Naava believes that healthy air should be a human right. The air we breathe will be the next global health trend, right after food and water.”

Lifa Air

Air purifier company Lifa Air was founded in 1988 by brothers Vesa and Pentti Mäkipää. The company has since expanded to some 1 000 employees and currently provides its air purification devices to both professional and consumer markets internationally.

A few years ago, the company took up a joint venture with the Chinese audio system manufacturer Edifier to provide air purifiers to the growing customer base in big Chinese cities.

“You can really feel the smog in your lungs,” said Johan Brandt, the CEO of Lifa Air. “The problem is serious and people talk about it daily.”

The company targets middle- and upper-class Chinese consumers, who can afford the minimalistic, thousand-euro device. The joint project was a win-win deal for both companies: Lifa Air had the knowhow and Edifier was looking for a new product segment with the proper manufacturing capacity. Lifa Air still manufactures the professional air purifiers itself, but, given the added volume of consumer products, Edifier is well suited to match the growing demand in China.

Lifa Air has had business in over 50 countries and is looking towards Europe and the Middle East for its future moves due to the areas’ suitable legislative and infrastructural conditions.

“For example, in Dubai the conditions are challenging with plenty of skyscrapers and sand flying around. The air simply has to be cleaned.”

University of Oulu

Researchers at the University of Oulu in Northern Finland came up with a solution to bypass traditional time-consuming methods of respiratory measurements. The invention goes by the name of respiratory effort test and is currently in clinical trials.

“We wanted to create a quick, easy and affordable way to measure the ease or difficulty of breathing,” said Tapio Seppänen, professor of biomedical technology and head of the physiological signal analysis group at the University of Oulu. “We explored the possibilities of using a mobile phone to measure respiration. Today’s mobile phones contain many sensors and advanced measurement technology, making them a versatile measuring tool.”

Using the existing sensors of a device that pretty much everyone has and carries around also provides the easy chance to measure one’s breathing in different places. The effort test hence provides more data regarding the air quality in one’s workplace and home. The data is analysed by the solution’s AI-powered analysis software.

WellO2

Finnish startup Hapella’s device WellO2 lets you train your respiratory muscles whether you’re a person with chronic breathing difficulties or an athlete. WellO2’s test results show that a 30 per cent increase in exhaling and inhaling strength could be achieved in just a few weeks of respiratory training.

“When you blow into the device, the resistance created opens up your airways so when you inhale the warm vapour it gets deeper into your airways,” explained Ilpo Kuronen, CEO of Hapella. “This combination opens up your airways and clears mucus, while breathing against resistance trains the respiratory muscles.”

The creator of the device, Aulis Kärkkäinen, himself an asthmatic person, came up with the idea through his positive experiences in sauna and with resistive breathing. The combination of both elements eventually led to the invention securing 1.5 million euros in funding in just a few months. Now the company is planning to build WellO2 into an internationally recognised brand.

Text: Samuli Ojala

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