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Sensor Company Catches People Lighting Up
Published Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Lebanon company is helping hotels and college dorms crack down on smoking in non-smoking areas with technology developed at Dartmouth College in Hanover.

Fresh Air Sensor Corp., which launched in 2013, has developed sensors that plug into the wall or can be hardwired to detect secondhand cigarette and marijuana smoke, record the information 24/7 and email violations to building owners. The plug-in version of the technology is being released this spring and comes with tamper-resistant screws.

Joe BelBruno, founder and CTO of Fresh Air Sensor Corp. and a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, invented the technology. He explains the sensors behave as a human nose and can be calibrated to detect specific molecules in the air, including nicotine and burned marijuana. The company is developing sensors for benzene and formaldehyde, including a wearable version that is expected to be released in the fall and marketed to researchers and others concerned about exposure to chemicals.

“These are things that are carcinogenic to people that we can detect,” BelBruno says, though the data sent back does not identify specifically what was being smoked.

BelBruno started the company with CEO Jack O’Toole, a Marine who led a portion of the relief efforts after the 2010 earthquakes in Haiti. O’Toole attended an entrepreneurship class at the Tuck School of Business where BelBruno pitched the idea.

The duo has focused on businesses such as hotels, college and universities, and property managers who have facilities with areas that do not permit smoking.  “There are lots of places where people are not supposed to smoke but do it anyway,” O’Toole says. “This allows them to deter smoking. Our customers are not that interested in catching people smoking but preventing people from smoking.” O’Toole also sees markets in nursing homes and car rental companies.

Fresh Air will deliver its first order of 1,000 sensors to its first customer this spring. Fresh Air, which has five employees, anticipates adding technical and sales staff this year. The company has raised about $3.2 million from various sources, including grants and Angel funding. Dartmouth College is a shareholder in the company. For more information, visit www.freshairsensor.com


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