While it's not against the law to smoke cigarettes in most parts of the world, there are still a lot of places where smoking is prohibited – workplaces, hotels, public housing, college dorms, jails – and a whole lot of smokers who still like to sneak in a cheeky one on the sly. That could become a lot more difficult with the release of the AirGuard, a sophisticated smoke detection unit that can either be hand held or fixed to a wall, and that can send out a Wi-Fi alert when tobacco or marijuana smoke is detected.
AirGuard is the work of FreshAir Sensors, a New Hampshire company founded on the research of Dartmouth Professor of Chemistry Joe DelBruno. We've covered an early iteration of DelBruno's work before, when he built a portable sensor to record data on secondhand and thirdhand tobacco smoke exposure (thirdhand smoke is that which sinks into clothes, furniture and the like, and is then re-released.)
Two AirGuard versions will be available. The first is a battery-powered handheld unit that communicates with the central system by Bluetooth connection to an Android phone. The other unit is a plug-in device that covers over and replaces a standard two-plug power outlet. It attaches via tamper-resistant screws, draws its own power from one outlet and provides a pass-through power outlet from the second.
The device uses a pair of polymer films to accurately sense when somebody nearby is smoking a cigarette or sparking up a doobie, if that is indeed what the kids are calling it these days.
Once detected, AirGuard rats out the sneaky smokers by sending a Wi-Fi alert to a central system, which logs infractions and can send an e-mail straight to an administrator.
FreshAir plans to initially market the device to hotel chains, where smoking in non-smoking rooms is a frequent problem, but will also "passively sell" to other markets. The hotel market alone could end up being very lucrative for FreshAir – mind you, we suspect they'd be better off hidden somewhere less obvious, to discourage people from vandalizing them or taping them over.
The devices will be available from Spring 2015.