Breathe easy: This 3M smart IoT app helps home air quality
Is there anything more important in your home than the air you breathe? Maybe, but air quality should be a high priority. If you’re like me, you don’t think about it very often. And you might neglect to change your HVAC air filter as frequently as you should. Yep, I’m guilty.
Virtually all of us here at ArcTouch can relate to this common problem — which is probably why we’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with 3M to solve it. For more than 25 years, 3M has been helping deliver cleaner air to millions of homes with its Filtrete brand of air filters.
We’re excited to share that the 3M Filtrete™ Smart Air Filter, announced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), is now available online and in stores. And the Filtrete™ Smart app, designed and developed by ArcTouch, is now featured on the iOS App Store and Google Play (Android).
With an industry-first built-in Bluetooth powered sensor, this IoT smart filter monitors air flow and communicates with the companion app to let people know when it’s time to change their filter.
Air filters for home HVAC systems typically need to be replaced once every three months. But that’s only an estimate based on average use. The reality is that each home, and every heating/air-conditioning unit is different — and the exact lifespan depends on how often a system is used.
With these variables, it’s impossible for anyone to know exactly when they should change their filters. And eyeballing it doesn’t work either — filters that are worn out and ineffective still may look clean. So, people (like me) often forget to change their filters — resulting in poor air quality.
The solution – a smart IoT app and a connected filter
Working in lock-step with the 3M Filtrete team, ArcTouch designed and developed the IoT app that keeps people up to date on the lifespan and effectiveness of their air filter.
The filter’s built-in sensor measures actual air flow and usage — then passes that information along to the app. The app also makes it easy to order replacement filters — it remembers the size of filter you need, and will show you where you can purchase a replacement. You can choose to opt in to specific notifications about filter performance and when your outdoor air quality (based on your location) is poor. The app offers tips on how to improve air quality in your house. Last, the app also works with an indoor air quality monitor (sold separately) so you can gain a deeper understanding of the air quality inside your home.
As 3M’s Amanda Dauphinais said in the company’s press release, “The Filtrete Smart Air Filter takes the guesswork out” of replacing HVAC air filters.
Technology focus: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
The most complex piece of the project was architecting a communication protocol that would allow the filter’s sensor to pass data to the phone and Filtrete Smart App. The product required a system in which data is transmitted regularly by the filter sensor, captured by the phone, then processed by a 3M algorithm to determine when a filter needs to be replaced.
ArcTouch worked closely with 3M to establish this communication protocol between the phone app and the sensor. The considerations included:
- Battery life: The built-in sensor needed to be able to have enough battery life to last for the lifetime of the filter.
- Security: Only authorized users could have access to the data being stored in the sensor.
- Data retrieval: We needed to set rules for how and when a phone and app would connect with the sensor and capture data — to ensure the Filtrete filter life algorithm from 3M was running as expected.
- Hardware/app communication guidelines: The app had to follow Apple and Google operating system guidelines for BLE connection and communication.
- Safeguards: The app needed safeguards to help recover from any unforeseen BLE/firmware/hardware issues and ensure that the history of air flow and usage data remained intact.
After a lot of research and testing, 3M teams and ArcTouch together architected and implemented a proprietary BLE (Bluetooth® Low Energy) solution that met the project’s technical requirements — and solved the consumer problem.
“The ArcTouch engineering team was instrumental in helping us overcome some challenging technical barriers with BLE,” said 3M Filtrete marketing manager Patrick Hiner. “The end result was an industry first for BLE technology — and a great technical foundation that we can leverage as our lineup of Filtrete Smart Air Filters matures over time.”
No going back — try it out!
Working on this app was rewarding. I’m biased, but our team’s dedication to making the app successful and overcoming each and every technical hurdle was inspiring. And after experiencing this “smart” IoT app and air filter from 3M, I won’t go back to the old, dumb way. Try one out, and let us know what you think!
Working on an IoT project?
For nearly a decade, ArcTouch has been working with leading brands like 3M to build connected apps for mobile and the IoT. If you’re thinking about your next project and need some guidance or help, we’re happy to offer a free consultation.