Flow by Plume Labs Thorough Review

Flow by Plume Labs

Please note: I receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post for the Flow by Plume Labs: https://honeygusto.com/flow-air-monitor 

Okay, now that I’ve seen A LOT of what the Flow has to offer, I went a little crazy and created a bunch of content. That doesn’t mean it’s worthless content. Far from it. I find this highly valuable and hopefully will show you guys how much data you have at your fingertips with the Flow by Plume Labs.

Singapore Air Pollution Results

When I was first testing the Flow I was in Singapore. So I planned a 90-minute walk around a pre-defined route, which I carried out 3 times. Meaning, I performed an identical walk in Singapore on 3 separate occasions/different days. It made for good scientific control and the great thing about Singapore is the weather is very constant because it’s equatorial. You have pretty much the same tropical weather every day, which meant I could accurately compare the data of the 3 separate walks. It’s not like the 1st walk was cold, the 2nd raining and the 3rd a blizzard. It was clear skies and 30 degrees Celcius in all of them!

You’ll see the interactive image below the route I took with the blue lines. I then split the route into 5 distinct areas: Orchard, Lower Newton, Middle Newton, Upper Newton, and Novena. Hover over the image and click on the pop-up colours to get more details on the areas. I averaged the areas based on the 3 separate walks, so the values for NO2, VOCs, PM2.5 & PM10 are an average for that particulate location.

Singapore Air Quality Ranking Map

The Singapore air quality ranking map is separated into 5 areas:
Orchard, Lower Newton, Middle Newton, Upper Newton and Novena. Regarding Newton, there is so no such area as upper, middle and lower. I made them up for the purpose of the map! But the separation of the area makes sense for this study.

Singapore Air Quality Ranking Map
Orchard Lower Newton Middle Newton Upper Newton Novena

Orchard

Singapore air quality ranking

Orchard had the highest levels of air pollution on average across all 3 walks:
NO2 = 0.45 AQI
VOC = 9.97 AQI
PM 2.5 = 23.23 AQI
PM 10 = 45.73 AQI

The levels that registered at the McDonald's in Orchard road were very high, peaking at 121 AQI for PM 10 for a single, transient, 1-minute measurement. Studies to identify air quality in fast-food joints would be really interesting.

Lower Newton

Singapore air quality ranking

The air quality levels in Lower Newton were:

NO2: 1.26 AQI
VOC: 9.91 AQI
PM 2.5: 13.74 AQI
PM 10: 30.80 AQI

The PM 2.5 levels near enough halved but its a more dangerous pollutant than PM10, as its small 2.5 microns is diameter means it can deposit deep into the lungs.

Middle Newton

Advanced filtering for cars

The pollutant concentrations for Middle Newton were:

NO2 = 1.27 AQI
VOC = 9.43 AQI
PM 2.5 = 12.17 AQI
PM 10 = 27.61 AQI

You'll see the NO2 levels are 3-times that of Orchard but still incredibly low. 0-20 AQI poses no threat to human health. I can think of 2 reasons behind the readings:

1. Singapore's legislation means all cars are very new. From walking the streets, I see very few cars that are older than 3 years! As such, they'll be much more fuel-efficient and cleaner-burning. NO2 is just linked to traffic, so that could be the reason for the low readings.

2. The data is inaccurate. If you watch my GoPro footage of the walk, you'll notice significant amounts of traffic at points, and I'm standing 1-2 feet away.

Upper Newton

N95 Mask

The results for Upper Newton:

NO2 = 1.43
VOC = 9.76
PM 2.5 = 14.38
PM 10 = 33.57

I spent the least amount of time in this area whilst walking: for only 5 minutes. But in the event of haze/large pollution episodes, you could wear a mask. Especially if you have, say, for example, asthma.

They filter, so they are a pretty good control. They do filter out 95% of particles capable of being inhaled via your nose and mouth.

Novena

Air quality index score

The pollution results for Novena:

NO2 = 1.15 AQI
VOC = 10.04 AQI
PM 2.5 = 13.63 AQI
PM 10 = 34.33 AQI

Thankfully for myself, I'm 25 years old and healthy. If you're immunocompromised, elderly and someone who's likely to be badly affected by air pollution and haze, check out this infographic. It gives details for the AQI (air qiality index)score and when to stay indoors.

My Observations Part 1 – VOCs

  • One thing I found strange was the VOCs concentration remained near-identical throughout the walk. There were no peaks or troughs, and the average concentration in the 5 distinct areas is pretty much the same. Have a look at the line graph below that bolsters the claim, with the VOCs being in green.
Flow by Plume Labs
Look at the variability in both PM2.5 and PM10 compared to VOCs
  • So, what are the possible explanations for this? For example, considering there was variability in PM10 for the lowest value of 6 AQI and maximum of 121. That’s crazy variation! Whereas VOCs only ranged from 5-17 AQI. My theory for this is because indoor VOCs concentrations on average are 10 times that of outdoors. The likes of benzene, trichloroethylene, formaldehyde are associated with paint, cleaning chemicals, cigarette smoke, plugin air fresheners and cosmetics. With the exception of cigarette smoke, these air pollution sources are only of concern indoors, and even then the effects of tobacco smoke will be magnified in your home
Flow by Plume Labs
The effects of ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) and the risks to others, especially children, are far higher indoors, as will be the VOC concentration.
  • Because the airflow exchange rate/ventilation is unsurprisingly poorer indoors, the levels of the aforementioned VOCs will build indoors. In the outdoor environment, they’re easily dispersed. Now you do get gasoline-related VOCs but Singapore is in a unique position when it comes to motor vehicles. I was stunned to see not a SINGLE old-looking car. They’re all new! To limit the levels of traffic-related air pollution, not only does Singapore inflate the price of a car drastically, they only import cars that are 0-3 years old. Cars that are >10 years old are traded to other SE Asian nations like the Philippines or Thailand, and you’d need a special license to drive an old car
  • Therefore, the engines are a lot of cleaner-burning, releasing fewer VOCs. Another factor could be meteorology, principally wind speed. Nevertheless, due to Singapore’s same-old climactic conditions, the wind speed wasn’t a factor. In fact, it very rarely is. I lived there for 6 months and recall not a single time when I felt the wind speed was even moderate. VOCs would not be blown considerable distances to concentrate in a particular area
  • You’ll also get industry-related VOCs, but you’ll notice from the 13-minute video of the walk below, that I didn’t pass a single factory; only cars, offices and condos. I only passed one gas station, a Shell garage on Bukit Timah Road
  • Therefore I wasn’t close enough to a particular VOCs emission source, so the values were low and constant

FYI, if you’re wondering what AQI is, it’s the air quality index score. It takes the raw values in ug/m3 and converts them into an ‘easier to understand’ AQI score, all of which are whole numbers. We don’t need to stress our brains on the clever conversions the Flow by Plume Labs conducts. Just know that the greater the AQI, the higher the air pollution concentration. Check out the table below on the pollution thresholds they use:

Flow by Plume Labs
Realistic values are anywhere from 0-100, with averages recorded on my Flow being in the 20-50 bracket.

My Observations Part 2 – NO2

  • NO2 content was next to nothing! This was surprising to me as if you look at my GoPro footage of the entire walk, there are quite a lot of cars. You see, nitrogen dioxide principal source is burning of fossil fuels, specifically car exhausts. Don’t get me wrong, Singapore is by no means New Dehli but the traffic was far from light. There were times I was standing at a red light waiting to cross, and I’m a meter away from a tonne of idling vehicles. Also, have a browse of the gallery below that shows my close proximity to vehicles, along with the video
  • You can imagine my surprise to see the average concentration was 1 AQI and the range 1-9. I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as I am when you see the photos. So, the only logical explanation I have is modern cars being cleaner burning and a lot more efficient. In addition, not walking passed coal-fired power plants, chemical processing facilities etc.

The infographic below also gives a summary of my air pollution exposure over the 3 walks, in AQI, just in a different way.

My Observations Part 3 – Particulate Matter

So we know that both PM2.5 and PM10 varied a lot based on the line graph, but why? Well, the answer lies in the fundamental structure and composition of particulate matter.

Definition – PM is a mixture of solid and liquid droplets, including (but not limited to) dust, condensed vapours, mist and soot. They can be from a primary source, such as directly from a construction site, or a secondary source. The latter meaning it has formed from a preexisting pollution molecule, such as NO2 or SO2. This is why PM levels are significantly higher than NO2 and VOCs because you have 2 routes to creation. To be honest, any minute particle suspended in the air for a prolonged period of time is registered as PM by the Flow.

The entrainment of road dust into the air is probably the largest contributor to my exposure in Singapore. There are a lot of cars, albeit clean burning to release very small amounts of NO2, but the sheer volume of traffic on the roads kicks up a lot of dust.

The average PM10 AQI concentrations during my 90-minute walks were 27.08, 51.87 and 29.20 for walks 1, 2 & 3 respectively. Also, walks 1 and 3 come under the moderate pollution category, and walk 2 as high pollution, meaning pollution has exceeded the maximum allowable safe limits stated by the WHO (World Health Organisation) and there is a strong chance of health implications from longterm exposure. As a result, the 3 main sources of PM in Singapore were:

  1. Entrainment of dust from roads
  2. Construction and demolition sites. There were building works taking place and the levels of PM spiked when I walked past a construction site. Take a look at the 2 images below, which had really notable heightened levels of PM: 34 AQI one minute and 83 AQI the next once walking past the site during walk 1
  3. Secondary sources from preexisting pollutants like VOCs, SO2 and NO2

Moreover, I’m assuming the constant peak and troughs in the PM2.5 and PM10, as shown in the line graph is the result of traffic volume. The greater the volume of traffic, the higher the PM concentrations and vice versa, as the cars whirl the dust into suspension for the Flow by Plume Labs to register. Coupled with the fact that we have dry conditions on all 3 walks, so its easier for particles to enter suspension and not be deposited out due to water droplets, or remain stuck to the ground.

Handling Flow by Plume Labs Data

I don’t want you to be daunted by the volume of content I’ve created here. I just got excited by all the air pollution exposure data! You certainly don’t have to go that far. In fact, you’ll easily get your monies worth without ever exporting the data to your desktop.

For example, I’ve attached a screenshot and an iPhone screen recording below, showing you the tools on offer within the app.

Singapore air quality data
The map and hotspots for the walk on 30/12/19.

The image is the exact route I walked on all 3 occasions, only now it’s showing within the Flow by Plume Labs app and colour-coded based on pollution concentrations. In addition, the video is a simple demonstration of the seamless integration with pollution concentration and real-time GPS coordinates. Here is a simple walk captured over a few minutes. But I know EXACTLY where I am. The little circle moves as I walk the streets in the iPhone video below.

This is very effective because you can deploy this in your home city (or anywhere in the world) and know precisely what pollutants you were exposed to, with the specific concentrations, time and location. Therefore, if you notice a particular street is constantly giving you high readings, you simply avoid it. There are plenty of ways you can navigate around it, and you’re conserving your health.

Think about it, you have immense power at your fingertips. An affordable device like this didn’t exist 5 years ago. Furthermore, you are getting real-time data on the pollution concentrations that negatively impact your health. The majority of people that don’t have a Flow device will continue to be oblivious to air pollution. But you’ll know what you’re breathing in, and take the necessary safety steps to counter it.

Besides, the Flow by Plume Labs can collect your data and store it in a central cloud location, so you’re contributing to science. With your permission, they can extract your data and build accurate worldwide maps based on the thousands of people with a Flow wondering the streets. Now that’s pretty cool!

However, if you’re a nerd like me and want to create pivot charts to your heart’s content, check this video out…

Singapore Air Pollution Walk Footage

Take a look at the videos I captured on my GoPro of the walk. Because the Flow by Plume Labs is attached to my rucksack, taking measurements automatically, it’s not like I’m multitasking. Also, I could capture the walk in-action for you, safely knowing my GPS coordinates and pollutant concentrations would safely sync and be stored on my phone.

The footage you see is strictly from walk 1, but they’d all look the same anyway since it’s the same route:) Sit back, relax and enjoy the nice scenery Singapore has to offer.

Is it worth the money?

The device costs £119 GBP/$129 USD + free shipping. So I’ve used professional-level air monitors during my time in university for my dissertation, and they cost thousands. Sure, they’re incredibly powerful and more accurate than the Flow. But they’re also harder to use and to get a hold of. On the other hand, you can get this on Amazon. It’s super simple to use and at a fraction of the price. From what I’ve seen, there is nothing else on the market like the Flow.

You’re spreading knowledge and influencing change for governments to put stricter regulations in place for air pollution. You have more power with this little device than you think…

You certainly don’t have to be an air quality consultant to use this. If I can, then anybody can. It’s simple enough to use, and so long as you have a smartphone, you can start measuring and viewing your air pollution exposure right away.

Flow 1 & Flow 2 Compassion

Comparing the specs of the Flow 1 and the newer Flow 2. Both are available on Amazon.
Flow 1Flow 2
Pollutants: PM2.5, PM10, NO2, VOCsPollutants: PM1, PM2.5, PM10, NO2, VOCs
Battery: 24 hours Battery: up to 72 hours due to new idle mode
Bluetooth: bluetooth low energy (BLE)Bluetooth: bluetooth low energy (BLE)
Amazon logo on a white background.Amazon logo on a white background.
Flow air monitor 1Flow air monitor 2
Price: £119 GBP/$129 USDPrice: £139 GBP/$159 USD

Indoor air pollution

I wouldn’t have said the Flow makes for the best indoor air quality monitor. You’ll primarily want to use this for outdoors, as the GPS coordinates would be redundant in your home.

But are you worried about indoor air pollution? If so, have a watch of the short video below and click here to discover the indoor air pollution solutions. Remedy the worlds largest environmental health risk with this course. Nowadays, indoor air pollution is more of a concern as there are no regulations governing a safe standard for homes.

Please note: I receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post: https://honeygusto.com/flow-air-monitor. But these are all products I highly recommend. I would never post about a product/service I haven’t verified and/or personally used.

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Hello everyone, I'm Donald Eide, founder of Honey Gusto. We specialize in the manufacturing and selling of medical devices and supplies. Our purpose is to have these devices available to everyone across the globe. We make the process simple. Nobody want's to be overwhelmed when they buy a medical product, whether that be an allergy test kit or an earwax removal product. We've got you covered with user simplicity. It could be a custom-designed instructional comic, 2-D animated video or a live product demonstration. We ditched the old-fashioned black and white instruction leaflet and introduced an engaging way to learn. All our instructions are simple to understand. And trust me, they aren't boring. You can rest assure that you will have a stress-free experience with our products, whilst picking up new skills and knowledge on health and well-being. You can feel proud knowing you can manage the health of yourself and your family. That's my goal for everyone who uses our products. I wish you all the very best of health. Donald Eide

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