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AirGuard Smoke Detector Knows When You’re Smoking Pot

A cigarette smokes near a plug in that holds a special smoke detector that can tell when you are smoking pot.

Joint Opinions

AirGuard Smoke Detector Knows When You’re Smoking Pot

AirGuard, a sophisticated new smoke detector will be able to ascertain if someone is smoking marijuana, and depending on where it’s installed, may alert the authorities. Sound scary? Well, for many residing in states where marijuana is still prohibited, this advanced device may further cripple their freedom to toke.

AirGuard doesn’t just detect smoke, but it can actually determine if someone is in the act of smoking. The detector uses chemically sensitive polymer films to recognize, measure and record the presence of nicotine vapor molecules from secondhand and thirdhand smoke in real time.

While it does not detect THC, AirGuard’s inventor and Dartmouth chemistry professor, Joseph J. BelBruno, has said that the tool has two sensors, one conditioned to the nicotine in tobacco smoke and another that identifies a specific chemical that is more prevalent in marijuana smoke.

According to BelBruno, this aforementioned chemical will remain secret until he and his team are ready to sell the device in 2015. The inventor also said that AirGuard is able to pick up concentrations measured in parts per billion. The device’s ability to reveal thirdhand smoke allows it to be used to expose traces of smoke in a room’s carpet or furniture or on a person’s clothing.

BelBruno is co-founder of FreshAir Sensors, the company developing AirGuard, along with Jack O’Toole, FreshAir’s chief executive officer. AirGuard’s target market is said to be hoteliers and landlords since the high-tech device helps enforce no-smoking policies in shared living spaces.

“There are concerns about people smoking in hotel rooms and there is also a surprising amount of interest from places like public housing, condo associations, dorms, nursing homes and jails,” O’Toole said.

BelBruno was surprised to find that hotel management found marijuana smoking to be a much more pressing issue than cigarette smoking. Initially, the professor and his team were only working on detecting nicotine, but hotel management requested a device that could recognize marijuana smoke as well.

Two versions of the detector will be sold: one that can be plugged into a typical two-plug electrical outlet and another battery-operated, wearable model that can fit in the palm of one’s hand. The outlet model will be connected via a user’s Wi-Fi network to FreshAir’s server, while the handheld version will activate using an Android app via Bluetooth.

O’Toole told Dartmouth Now, “Our device will allow users to monitor unobserved areas and ensure these spaces are not being smoked in. It sends a signal over Wi-Fi that immediately alerts facility managers to someone smoking in a prohibited area.”

Through the outlet model, the server will send an email to the hosts, whether that be property or hotel managers, informing them that smoking has occurred in a non-smoking room. According to BelBruno, the server also enables managers to access a dashboard, which connects them with the devices, allowing them to retrieve data or configure the device.

As for whether the use of e-cigarettes is detected through the AirGuard, BelBruno said that while there is a bit of smoke that may escape from the e-cigarette, there is not enough nicotine that is released for the device to take notice.

BelBruno seems hopeful that AirGuard will have an extensive client list when the device is launched in spring 2015. The inventor said that people have called from nursing homes, dormitories and other public housing all interested in installing the detector.

Do you smoke in your apartment, dorm room or hotel? How would you feel if this device was installed in your space? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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