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This little white box lets you know if it detects COVID-19 in the air

And over 1,000 other pathogens.

poppy covid detector
Image: Poppy

Wouldn’t it be great if your home or office could monitor for pathogens like COVID-19 in the same way that it monitors for smoke and carbon monoxide? That’s the question that Poppy planned to answer before the pandemic hit, and now business is thriving.

They created a small, smoke-alarm-sized white box that collects the germs that waft through our interior air. Those samples get tested for common pathogens, and the results are fed back to the building managers via an internet dashboard. Nifty, right?

The only drawback at the moment? Poppy’s system isn’t able to do continuous, on-device testing for COVID-19 or other pathogens. The system is set up to sample the air with a static electricity-powered collection tray, that the building manager needs to send to a lab daily for analysis.

The goal is to have this part automated and on-device, and Poppy says they’re about a year out from that goal.

poppy app
Image: Poppy

You might be wondering how Poppy is so sure their system works. I mean, ventilation is different in every building, and some definitely aren’t designed to cycle the air properly. Well, that’s the really clever part.

They use lab-created “DNA barcodes” into the air from multiple places during the setup process. They know if they’ve situated the detector boxes properly if those DNA barcodes turn up in the testing system. It’s like having simulated viruses pumped through the HVAC system.

poppy covid-19 testing box diagram showing airflow detection
Image: Poppy

The other bonus of this sci-fi test? It creates a map of interior airflow, that could identify any stagnant areas; while confirming any estimates of how long it takes to cycle the air. That’s important for any building manager to gain back public trust, especially for high-traffic locations like malls or movie theaters.

The other bonus? It lets you know if your current pathogen mitigation efforts are working.

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