Beijing has once again been shrouded in smog this week, with pollution levels reaching hazardous levels over the past two days. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that the country’s Apple stores have decided to stock a piece of hardware primed for urban China: air quality monitors.

As of Wednesday, the Origins Laser Egg hit the shelves in 29 Apple stores across China, and will be available online from the 24th. The 499 yuan (about $76 USD ) air monitor allow users in congested cities to measure air pollution and take protective measures.

The Origins Laser Egg hit Apple shelves in China this Wednesday

China’s air pollution problem came to the forefront in December when the government’s public health warning system hit red alert for the first time since the system began in 2013, encouraging workers to stay home and offices to provide protective masks.

When Origins co-founder Liam Bates decided to start building air quality monitors two years ago there was no color code warning and only a handful of high-priced air purifiers on the market.

He had been visiting China since he was in high school in 2004, but it wasn’t until his girlfriend’s childhood asthma was reignited on a visit in Beijing that he realized how serious the pollution problem was.

“We went to a park in Beijing and we climbed to the top of a hill. We couldn’t see because it was so polluted. She was having a super hard time breathing.”

Liam Bates Origin
Liam Bates, co-founder of Origin, started the company after his girlfriend’s childhood asthma returned in Beijing.

Looking for a solution, he set out to buy an air purifier. “At the time I said, If I am going to spend this much money I want to know how it works…I thought, this is silly. This shouldn’t cost so much, and I don’t even know how if it works.” He called his partner Ken Ying and started work on the company the next day.

“We had no money and we knew nothing about air purifiers at the time” he says.

Two years later Origins now sells both air purifiers and air quality monitors. According to Liam, the monitors, which are popular among expats, caught the attention of China’s Apple operations when staff started to bring them to work. “It’s one of those thing you buy for your home but you invariably end up taking it to your office,” he says.

The Laser Egg features a small fan that pushes air past a laser, the laser refracts off minute particles in the air and uses an algorithm to calculate the air’s AQI, an index measuring air pollution. Origin’s accompanying app Breathing Space by Origins allows users to track the Egg’s readings and compare them to outdoor measurements.

Apple themselves have taken on strong environmental commitments in China. The company recently pledged to construct a 200 megawatt solar project across China’s north, east and southern regions. They will also partner with suppliers to build a further 2 gigawatts worth of clean energy projects in the coming years, hoping to avoid a total of 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas, roughly equivalent to removing 4 million vehicles from the road for one year.

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Cate Cadell

Cate is a tech writer. She worked as a journalist in Australia, Mongolia and Myanmar. You can reach her (in Chinese or English) at: @catecadell or

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