According to the recently published report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is now well underway and undoubtedly caused by humans. But air pollution isn’t only severely harming the health of our planet; it’s also harming our bodies. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nine out of ten people are breathing polluted air. What’s more, every year, seven million people die as a result of air pollution.
This IPCC report makes for sobering reading. However, not all is lost; some of the worst impacts of climate change can still be avoided. This will require unprecedented action on carbon emissions, which in turn, requires innovation and collaboration at every level of society.
Air pollution is certainly the greatest environmental health threat of our time and it’s a driving factor in climate change. This urgency inspired Robert Heinecke to found Breeze Technologies, an air quality startup that is transforming the way we manage pollution levels. Supported by Santander X, Banco Santander’s global entrepreneurship network, Breeze Technologies is taking the lead in this issue.
Breeze Technologies is a German air quality startup turned tech leader. Founded by computer science graduate Robert Heinecke, Breeze Technologies provides hyper local air quality monitoring and suggestions for climate action.
Robert was inspired to found the company whilst living in Istanbul in 2014. It was the first time he’d encountered air pollution as such a visible problem, which prompted him to explore the subject further.
“When I was living and working in Istanbul, I encountered heavy smog for the very first time. During some parts of my stay there, I could barely see the other side of the street!”Robert Heinecke
His research revealed that monitoring air quality is a complex issue. Air quality can vary greatly – even street by street – and yet, many major European cities will only have a handful of air quality monitoring stations. Furthermore, because air consists of so many different gases and aerosols, measuring its composition is a highly scientific undertaking.
Nevertheless, this granular data is essential for improving air quality and tackling climate change, so Robert sought to design a hyper-local solution. When Robert began developing his technology, there were some sceptics; large environmental agencies were unsure as to the accuracy of this small, compact sensor. However, they were in for a pleasant surprise.
“After running their [environmental agencies] own tests and co-locating our sensors for a couple of weeks with their existing technology, they were amazed by the results and could barely believe it.”Robert Heinecke
Robert understood that developing these sensors was going to be a substantial project. He quickly gathered some of the best scientific support to develop the hardware and analysis platform. This meant they were able to deploy the first prototypes and pilots fairly quickly and feedback into the product development.
“Getting that early market feedback was very valuable for us, and it enabled us to develop our product and its features very close to what the market actually required and wanted.”Robert Heinecke
The final result was the Breeze Technologies sensor, which can be easily and discreetly placed almost anywhere in the urban environment. These compact, low-cost sensors combine real-time data with existing intelligence that is fed into a central cloud platform. Advanced algorithms then perform sensor calibration, predictive maintenance, and most importantly, air quality analytics.
This gives users access to real-time and historic air quality data, as well as additional insights like comparisons with national and international air quality thresholds. With this information, businesses and public authorities can make informed decisions about local air quality.
The local, small-scale aspect of Breeze Technologies’ solution is central. Often, the climate crisis can feel like an insurmountable adversary that individuals can’t overcome. To an extent, this is true; but as a collaborative network, we can start making the specific, concrete changes that together, will turn the tide on climate change.
This air quality startup’s emphasis on concrete impact doesn’t stop there. The platform combines analytics with a built-in library of air quality actions. With over 3,500 suggestions as to how organisations can improve air quality in their immediate locale, Breeze Technology enables tangible measures to tackle climate change.
Breeze Technologies was one of the six winners of the Santander X Environmental Challenge. This is a global challenge for entrepreneurs with innovative green solutions to build a more sustainable future, and Breeze Technologies beat more than 800 projects and 20 finalists globally.
They decided to apply to connect to new people, get international exposure and feedback from peers. The programme didn’t disappoint; Breeze Technologies gained contacts inside and outside of Santander. This enabled them to explore new ways of partnering and growing their business.
Looking to the future, Breeze Technologies want to keep supporting cities and businesses to plan and implement better clean air actions. They also want to make environmentally aware applications more mainstream by collaborating with other developers. For example, they’re working on an air quality data-based wildfire detection system in the US, which leverages pre-existing air quality monitoring infrastructure to save forests, wildlife, and homes from wildfire.
“If you are really thinking of starting a company: Make it one that has a positive impact on society.”Robert Heinecke
Robert’s advice for budding green entrepreneurs is simple: do it, start a company. One of the greatest things about working in a startup is the sense of purpose; and when it comes to climate change, this purpose has never been more important. Breeze Technologies has a clear goal: the fight against air pollution. And what could be more rewarding than fighting to save our planet? With support from programmes like Santander X, imagine what you could achieve.
Banco Santander, through Santander X, supports entrepreneurial initiatives that contribute to accelerating the transition to a greener economy and, therefore, combat climate change and reduce the impact of its consequences on our planet. This challenge of moving towards a low-carbon economy requires investment in innovation, hence Santander’s commitment to the entrepreneurial community.
Are you a startup or scaleup and have an innovative idea that helps people, businesses, and governments implement sustainable solutions to build a better future? Sign up for Santander X initiatives and turbocharge its development!
Robert Heinecke, CEO and Founder of Breeze Technologies.