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Keeping an eye on air quality

Released at: 11:27, 15/06/2019

Keeping an eye on air quality

Photo: VET Magazine

One Vietnamese startup is set to launch a solution that monitors air quality in the workplace or wherever people gather.

by Linh San

Two young men from Vietnam caught the attention of many foreign visitors at IBM’s Think 2019 in San Francisco last February with their tMonitor - an indoor air quality monitoring solution. The tMonitor solution, including both software and hardware, leverages Machine Learning with IoT to monitor and prevent air pollution and improve health conditions, and was named Asia Pacific Champion of IBM Watson Build 2018 at Think. ThinkLabs, the name behind the tMonitor solution, was the only Vietnamese company on the shortlist as Asia Pacific Champion.

Its Chief Operating Officer Vu Hai Nam and his partner, Chief Technology Officer Tran Duc Nghia, are both proud to have been named Asia Pacific Champion. “We spent many months and long nights finding a solution that worked, and it felt great to receive that validation from IBM,” Mr. Nam told VET.

They recalled the hard days since they had the idea of creating a solution that helps people deal with an increasingly polluted environment. They had sleepless nights after learning, coding, and meetings and then more learning, coding, and meetings. But where there’s a will there’s a way. ThinkLabs received support from the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program in 2017, giving it access to the global giant’s cloud technology and resources to develop their ideas and solutions. Since 2018, through Mr. Nghia connections with a South Korean partner that is one of the leading hardware companies in the country, they have had opportunities to travel there on study trips, acquiring know-how about hardware development such as how to design a sensor box and how to make a circuit board.

tMonitor is powered by the IBM IoT Platform and IBM Cloud for edge device lifecycle management, a hardened end-to-end security solution that ensures the highest standards of security, reliability, and scalability of the network. This enables the rapid deployment of devices in any indoor environment regardless of the infrastructure of the building. The solution is an IoT device that delivers real-time, accurate, and precise measurements of particles (PM 1, PM 2.5, and PM 10), gases (VOCs, SO2, CO, O3, CO2, and NH3), and environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, and light). 

ThinkLABs then took the tMonitor solution to IBM Watson Build 2018. In every phase and round, the solution was technically proven by IBM experts, and Mr. Nam and his partner presented a 20-minute pitch. “Every partner in Watson Build is positioning its business to capture AI opportunities that are growing by the day,” said Ms. Catherine Solazzo, Vice President, IBM Partner Ecosystem Marketing. “Naming this year’s global champion is not going to be easy. Each finalist has brought forward strong solutions.”

Developing tMonitor as an automated and continuous workplace environment monitoring system with consistent implementation costs and accurate results of working conditions at agencies, enterprises, and areas with a high concentration of workers, Mr. Nam and Mr. Nghia hope to minimize risks to humans and losses both materially and physically when a crisis occurs in a workplace. “We previously used people as a tool to detect incidents, but there were cases where there was no direct human presence or were incidents that could not be detected,” Mr. Nam said. “So we researched and developed the use of sensor networks. Lately we have noticed that it is possible to increase workplace productivity and protect people by improving air quality.” 

Developing ‘Make in Vietnam - Made by Vietnamese’ products

Despite being a startup, ThinkLabs has had access to new IBM technologies such as IBM Cloud, IBM Watson IoT Platform, and IBM Watson Machine Learning to develop its solutions and equipment. “With a responsibility and desire to promote creative development globally, IBM will always be ready to support and develop startups like ThinkLabs, giving them more opportunities to access, experience, and use IBM’s new technologies for practical and wide application,” said IBM Vietnam’s Chief Technology Officer Le Nhan Tam. “We hope that ThinkLabs’ products will continue to develop and provide value to both businesses and the community.”

After much research and development, ThinkLabs is now completing the final phase of testing the stability of its equipment, before officially developing commercial products in factories, apartment buildings, hospitals, and shopping centers in August. “ To ensure the best quality of tMonitor, we purchased specific high-end sensors from abroad to assemble complete boxes, as well as improve the software performance on AI and Cloud systems,” Mr. Nam said. ThinkLabs has now set up tMonitor at 18 test installation locations. 

Together with being named Asia Pacific Champion at Think 2019, the company also received a Sao Khue Award 2019 from the Vietnam Software Association (VINASA); the most prestigious honor in Vietnam’s IT and software industry. “These two prestigious awards have helped ThinkLABS affirm our position and the position of our tMonitor products,” said Mr. Nam. “This also motivates us to continue developing ‘Make in Vietnam’ products and pursue our mission of building resilient and sustainable enterprises by creating a healthier and safer indoor workplace for everyone. Good air quality improves productivity.” 

ThinkLabs will call for more investors to supplement its capital and produce more equipment, expand scale, and improve product quality, using AI technology to take tMonitor to the world. 

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