Dec 14, 2015

With Assistance From: Feifei Shen

[…] Origins Technology Ltd. in July began sale of the Laser Egg, a palm-sized air quality monitor used to track indoor and outdoor air quality by measuring fine particulate matter in the air.

The phone map and Laser Egg are the latest levers in prying control over information on air quality from the hands of the few to the many, and they’re beginning to weigh on how officials respond to the issue. […]

Laser Egg

Sources of air quality data come from the China National Environment Monitoring Center, local environmental protection bureaus and non-Chinese sources such as the U.S. Embassy’s website in Beijing, Xu said.

Air quality is a controversial subject in China. Since 2012, the public has pushed the government to move more quickly than planned to begin releasing data measuring pollution levels — especially of PM2.5, the particulates most harmful to human health.

The reading was 267 micrograms per cubic meter at 10 a.m. Monday near Tiananmen Square, according to the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. The World Health Organization cautions against 24-hour exposure to concentrations higher than 25.

The availability of data appears to be filling a need, especially with the arrival of colder temperatures and the associated smog that blanketed Beijing and northern China recently. The 499 yuan ($77) Laser Egg has been sold out since the night of Dec. 8, according to Origins’ founder Liam Bates.

Beijing’s first ever red alert was imposed between Dec. 8 and noon on Dec. 10, making “everyone realize the environment wasn’t as good as imagined,” said Bates, a 27-year-old Swiss national and a former Chinese television anchor. […]