Episode #8 – Jacques Touillon from AirBoxLab

Jacques Tuoillon

Jacques Tuoillon, AirBoxLab

In this episode number 8 of the InnovaBuzz podcast, Jacques Tuoillon from AirBoxLab shares with us the story of the development of the Alima Indoor Air Quality monitoring device as well as his vision for an “Internet of Caring”.   Listen to the inteview to learn what Jacques shared with us on the podcast.

Listen to the Podcast

Watch the Video

Today I’m going to give away a copy of Big Bang Disruption, by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes, which is all about strategy in the age of what the author calls “devastating innovation.”  Leave a comment under the video and tell us how you think the Alima Air Quality Monitor can help your own home, your own quality of life, and what features you think it should have to make it even more useful for you.  If you leave a comment under the video, I’ll get Jacques to swing by in a few weeks and award that prize.

Show Highlights

Some of the highlights of this episode include:

  • Indoor pollution is up to 8 times higher typically, than outdoor pollution and our modern building practices with energy saving measures make that even worse.
  • AirBoxLab have developed an indoor air monitoring device that is affordable to the home consumer.
  • “Big Data” alone is not useful without a “brain” that turns the data into something practical which can help people change behaviour.
  • If you’ve got a disruptive technology, educating the consumers or the potential customers about the benefits is one of the most important things to get right.
  • The idea of the “Internet of Caring” as a human version of the “Internet of Things”.

The Buzz – Our Innovation Round

Here are Jacques’ answers to the questions of our Innovation round. Watch the interview to get the full scoop.

  • #1 thing to be innovative – Disrupt – not just out of the box, go against the mainstream and create your own “stream”.
  • Best thing for new ideas – Always question what is around you, the ideas, what people are doing – curiosity and more questions.
  • Favourite tool for innovation – Keep iterating, keep open even to the point of sharing with the competition, of course then just be ahead of them.
  • Keep project / client on track – Keep close to customers, be open and be a partner rather than a supplier.
  • Differentiate – Stay focused on your vision, long term and stick to it; be open to inputs and feedback. Push the boundaries.

Reach Out

You can reach out and thank Jacques via Twitter or LinkedIn or Alima’s Facebook page or AirBoxLab’s Facebook page or About Me.

Suggested Guest

Jacques suggested I interview Nick Vassilakis of Astute, on a future podcast. So, Nick, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the Innovabuzz Podcast!

Competition Hint

Hint: to enter the competition, leave a comment under this video and tell us how you think the Alima Air Quality Monitor can help your own home, your own quality of life, and what features you think it should have to make it even more useful for you.



Full Transcript

Click to Read…

Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from Innovabiz. Welcome to Episode No 8 of the InnovaBuzz Podcast – designed to help smart businesses with an interest in innovation and the Internet of Things become even more innovative.

In this episode, our guest is Jacques Touillon from AirBoxLab, a startup company based in Luxembourg with a product that monitors indoor air quality and gathers data to predict future air quality based on consumer behaviour.

This is another fascinating interview, with a lot of fabulous lessons to be learnt on innovation and using the internet to build an Internet of Caring, as Jacques expresses it, by focusing on the human element.  I was amazed to learn that Indoor air pollution is up to 8 times higher typically, than outdoor pollution and of course our modern building practices with energy saving measures make that even worse. Jacques team has produced a device for the personal consumers that is affordable and can track indoor air quality and send data to your mobile device.

This week’s innovation tip is something a little different – based on the understanding that indoor air quality is a real issue, that people may not be aware of – the tip is to “air” your rooms every day!  Open the windows, let in the hopefully fresh outdoor air and “refresh” your indoors – even on cold days, this is a really good practice to exchange the indoor air, remove pollutants and also make breeding environments for dust mites and other allergy causing pest, less conducive.  The idea of “airing” our homes and offices was common-place for generations, but in our quest for energy efficiency, it has been lost along the way.  So, get those windows open each day, and improve your overall well-being.  You’ll be amazed, what that will do for your innovation as well!

Before we meet Jacques, a quick competition announcement – this week’s competition prize is sponsored by Innovabiz – where we help smart, innovative business owners who need REAL, tangible results from the internet, transform their online presence into a business generation machine, that works EVEN when they are not working.

The prize is a copy of Big Bang Disruption, by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes, which is all about strategy in the age of what the author calls “devastating innovation.”  Stick around for details on how you can enter the draw to win that competition prize later on in the interview.

So stay with us, let’s get into the Innovation Hive and get the Buzz from Jacques Touillon.


Jürgen:  Hi, I’m Jürgen Strauss from InnovaBiz. I’m very pleased to have here with me today, all the way from France, near the Luxembourg border, I understand, Jacques Touillon, who is the co-founder and the CEO of AirBoxLab. So, welcome, Jacques, to the InnovaBuzz podcast.

Jacques:  Hi, Jürgen, thank you very much.

Jürgen:  AirBoxLab specializes in monitoring indoor air quality to improve your health and wellness, and Jacques has actually said on one of the company’s websites that AirBoxLab makes the “internet of good things” very useful for everyone and for the environment. So we look forward to hearing more about that.

Before we learn more about Jacques and about AirBoxLab, a quick competition announcement. Today I’m going to give away a copy of Big Bang Disruption, by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes, which is all about strategy in the age of what the author calls “devastating innovation.”  If you want to learn more about the challenges to come from the internet, preparing for them and building the capability to respond quickly and effectively, then this book is a “must read.” Stick around for details on how you can enter the draw to win that prize later on in the interview.

Now, Jacques, before we learn more about AirBoxLab and all the innovative things you’re doing there, let’s find out a little bit more about you as a person. When you were a young child, what did you have ambitions to become when you grew up?

Jacques:  Ah, very simple, very easy. I had the ambition of being an entrepreneur and a leader, kind of leader. I knew, I was sixteen years old when I discovered or was convinced that I would be on my own, I would be, yeah, leading my way, finding my own way, which I finally did.  I never had a contract with an employer, so it’s something that I think was really deeply rooted in me. That was my kind of liberty and freedom for the life.

Jürgen:  Okay, that’s fascinating, because not many people start off as a young child wanting to be an entrepreneur. Did you have parents who were in business for themselves?

Jacques:  No, it’s exactly the opposite. And I think it’s maybe the reason why I just wanted to be somehow different. None of my, in my family, they were all in the, most of them in the medical works or, yeah. None of them were entrepreneurs. That was something, that was not a word you would find in my family.

Jürgen:  That’s fascinating. What’s been your journey, then, when was your first entrepreneurial adventure?

Jacques:  Well, I first started, but it’s something that is special in France. At that time, you had the possibility, instead of doing your military service, which was at that time voluntary, you could be working abroad for a French company. So it was kind of first experience, on the two-years period.  It was in the Worldwide Express Euro Transportation [inaudible 03:33], were bought over later on by TNT.  So it was in Canada and I was also at that time opening a new business for them.  They were based in Montreal, and they were asking me to open a new business in Toronto. I found that just a great experience, starting from scratch and just by working hard and meeting with people and making deals and then going from that point.

Then I came back in France and started then, my own business was in the environmental field. I always had this need of doing something that would bring something, you know, like the good thing you could be working on. I’ve always needed to be on jobs or work that is meaningful and useful.  They’re  the two key words for me. So I decided to go on with this environment business I created, was consulting, marketing, communications and as consultant for the environment, and quite quickly I was refocusing on behaviour change. That’s something that’s really fascinating, I think, to work on that part.

The main thing was, how can you be into, part of our consumer society but at the same time, taking care of your environment? Not, say, saving your planet, but at least really taking care, taking your [inaudible 05:28] to this environment need. I’ve done that for almost nineteen years, before creating this new project, with my startup. So it’s a long time of maturing, maybe, a kind of idea, letting grow. Actually, the startup, the AirBoxLab, the interesting thing is the, as I discovered, it was first 2005, but then really 2008, among the first “internet of thing” device, and one of them was the personal scale that would be able to tweet or Facebook your weight, which sounds at that time a little bit crazy and people question what’s the good of that kind of thing, who would like to have that. It turned out to be an excellent tool for people.

That was the first thing, and I’ve always been curious about new things. How can you do something in a different way or try something new? Curiosity is the, one of the energies that is driving me. Since I’ve been working on the environment subject so long, that’s one of the subject is the air. The statement with the air is very, something awkward, because it’s been, like in Europe, it’s been thirty years that we hear about the outdoor pollution, that it’s, how bad it is, and it’s not improving at all. Like, the EEC is pushing for new laws putting it mandatory to watch out for and decrease the outdoor pollution. But it sounds like, if you close your door and your window, you’re safe. It’s like, it’s only existing outside.

I remember one thing in France that was really shocking, is the Chernobyl accident in Russia, where the French government dared to say that the radioactive cloud did not cross the French border. At that time, I felt so betrayed, somehow, and it’s the same thing about the outdoor pollution. It’s a real problem, because it’s been thirty years that we are misleading people about that problem. The truth is actually that the indoor air pollution is higher, up to eight times higher, than the indoor. It’s a different pollution, but it’s an important one. And it has, in the long one, it has real impact on your health.

The problem was that the, one of the statement is always that if you want to improve something, you have to measure it first, and if you cannot measure, you cannot improve. The appliances were only very expensive, like one thousand to five thousand Euros per unit to have this monitoring system for your indoor air pollution. So for the end users, citizen, it’s really impossible to have that. Thinking about this “internet of thing” technology, and making it possible and affordable for this subject that was not taken into consideration. So it’s disrupting an existing technology, but on an existent market. That’s actually what I’m working on with my startup.

The goal, the big goal is for us to empower people with knowledge and then decision making, because then you can improve as soon as you can have this measure on the indoor air quality.

Jürgen:  That’s fascinating. Now let me take you back. You said that indoor air quality was eight times worse than outdoor? What’s contributing to that?

Jacques:  Well, it’s quite simple, it’s because of mainly products and activities. We are in a consumer society, we are all, and that’s with the help of strong marketing, strong hygienist marketing, we need to smell the odour of clean, of cleanliness.  And it’s something that is also misleading people, because it’s only chemicals. You don’t need that, actually, but you feel that if  it smells good, it smells something that is clean. Since you cannot, it’s invisible, intangible, so it’s only in your mind. So you have a lot of products that you use, like products is when you do cleaning at home, you’re just polluting your home.

Sounds awkward, eh, but that’s the truth. You can see that with the device we’re working on, because you see on the charts, you see the trace of the chemical in the air, all the particulate matter in the air.

That’s the first thing, and the second thing is the activities, like cooking, we also produce pollution. Actually, you know, like my maybe grandfather or grand-grandfather, they had this behaviour or habit of renewing the indoor air by exchanging outdoor and indoor air, which is something we have lost. I mean, it’s something we do not do any longer, because we are focusing on energy saving. We are building better houses, better, you know, we keep everything fine inside, but actually we confine, so we are, if we have less pollution inside than outside because we keep it always closed, that’s how it’s becoming more polluted than the outside.

The other thing is, you spend up to eighty percent of your lifetime inside. If you just catch, you know, outdoor pollution for only twenty percent of your lifetime, it’s no big deal, or almost, you know? It’s less dangerous than the inside. That’s the important thing; the enemy is inside, and that’s what we want people to be aware of and then make decision accordingly.

Jürgen:  Okay. So tell us about the product, the Alima product, the monitoring device that you’ve developed at AirBoxLab.

Jacques:  The device is, it’s like the “internet of thing” technology concept, we use off the shelf sensors. That’s the, really the big and very interesting idea, and not spending two to three years inventing a new sensor. We have, the two main sensors are the one with the VOCs and the one with the particulate matter. That’s the two bad ingredients for your health. Then we add temperature and humidity, we have, so it’s a monitoring station, and that means it’s continuously measuring, sending the data to the cloud. Then in the cloud, we do data processing, we do data mining, we analyze the pollution levels, we benchmark them. We use also, you have threshold given by the World Health Organization, so we also use that, so it’s starting level.

We work on, it’s called also pattern recognition, because we can detect some type of pollution, and we also work on predictive analysis. So it’s really, we have some kind of artificial intelligence in the cloud that is doing the work for you, and then we come back with an app on your smartphone, and we deliver notification, warnings, we deliver also actionable advice, and we’ll be delivering also, a kind of, like your personal indoor air pollution forecast, because the device is learning from your habits, from the way the pollution and the airflow inside your house change over time.

It’s really hardware, but our core business will be the service, the intelligence and the coaching side that we will be delivering.

Jürgen:  So really helping …

Jacques:  It’s something that I found … Really help, exactly. The one important thing is if you just deliver dashboard to end users, you’re doomed to fail, because this is not what we, I mean, on a daily basis, just receiving data, figures, and dashboards leads you nowhere else than putting on the side, and let it … So it’s something we don’t want, we want also to have kind of people teaching us with the app, because it’s how we want them to learn to improve their indoor air quality. That’s why we also are implementing identification within the app. The whole thing is, like a jogger, like a sport, we want you to improve and keep your indoor air as good as possible. That’s it.

Jürgen:  You’re taking the data and you’re turning it into something useful for everybody in the community. Yeah, I like the idea of turning it into a little bit of a game, so get a reward for changing behaviour.

Jacques:  Exactly. Plus, people will be able to use the results. We want to create also a community of people, and we believe that if you have, like, your best practices could be beneficial to other people, you know, could be exchanging. It’s been a way, could be a kind of Wikipedia of the good home [inaudible 17:06] by sharing the things, and being able, first, of course, to make it visible and then to exchange with the other people. So it’s working all together to improve it.

Jürgen:  That’s fascinating. So a little Wikipedia to build best practices and share them.

Jacques:  Yeah, and we were even thinking of maybe on the longer run to be the Shazam of the indoor air pollution, that would be very interesting to have the device and say, oh, this is the smell of, or this is the pollution of, I don’t know what, but it’s something that [inaudible 17:49]. It’s like the real power of the web and the data mining is to share it, is to make it like a common goal among the users.

Jürgen:  Yeah, exactly. I’m thinking of a slightly different approach. I don’t know if you know Strava, which is a sports app for, mainly for cyclists, and people share their rides on there and you can build segments on there. It’s kind of like best practice, and you compare your best times with other people’s best times. Again, it’s [crosstalk 18:22].

Jacques:  Yeah, that’s the new generation of the “internet of thing” devices, and I think this is much more powerful than the first one that was just, you know, we were all going really into data, just pure data that you would be getting. But it’s, no, we human are not made for data users.

Jürgen:  Yeah, I think you said something about the “internet of things” has to have an embedded brain to become an intelligent device, somewhere on your website.

Jacques:  The bigger the brain, the better the service. I think we see, right now, the design, you have to have something iconic, you have to have something that you can show to people in terms of the device. But I think it’s going to fade away, and then we will have, it’s the technology and it’s the service that you will be working on that will be the most important thing.

But it’s real, yeah, it’s kind of revolution. So it’s, we first show it, but then I hope it will democratize quickly so that we’ll have millions of sensors that we will be all using and sharing and improving our life with that.

Jürgen:  Probably, if you could put it into some big public spaces, and have, I don’t know, certification or something for public spaces that are certified to meet a certain standard, and that way, people more attracted to those places. So that could be a way to get it going.

Jacques:  Yeah, it will be. We have people asking us, like the hotel industry, to show, you know, sustainable hotel, would be very interested.  And we would be showing people right from the time they book the room on the website, they could see the indoor air quality of the room they would be booking. Could be all kind of restaurant, café, where you go, it could become one of the indicator of the quality of the place, not only the food, the drink, the comfort, it’s going beyond that.

Jürgen:  Yeah, it’s fantastic.

Jacques:  It does takes time, because, you know, as someone say, the hardware is hard, and it’s a double pain, because you have to be good in hardware as well as software and both of them at the same time, so it’s something that is really tough, but it’s really exciting.

Jürgen:  Yeah, it’s fabulous.  How do you describe what you do when you first meet somebody, Jacques, and they say, “So what do you do?” How do you describe that? Do you have kind of a one-sentence snapshot of what it is?

Jacques:  Yeah, in a way, it’s what we say, what I used to say now is that, we use science and technology to enhance your home vibes. That’s the vision, that’s the ultimate goal we are looking at, because we want to go one step further from the, if you just think about indoor air pollution, then you think data, you think quality of life, but the both, the data is your well living, you know, your well being. That’s what’s on the long run we’re looking at. Of course, at the beginning, it’s easier to say, okay, I have a device that is measuring your pollution, giving you that kind of notification, advices, so that you breathe better. But beyond breathing, it’s a question of living, that’s the division we have. Actually, it’s really working on the home vibes, feeling so good, so well at home. That’s the idea of the device.

Jürgen:  Okay, that’s great, focused really on the benefits it brings every individual rather than just the data that’s delivering that.

Jacques:  On the road, we have also that mission of, as I mentioned, empowering people with knowledge and also raise awareness. It’s very important, because this subject is so difficult because of this invisibility, because it’s intangible. So you have almost sixty percent of the population that is not aware of what they are breathing. And very funny thing when you think about it is, if you think of the three product or produce that you consume every day: You have water, you have food, and you have air. Actually, the air is the number one you consume. It’s at least twelve kilos a day. Who knows what he’s breathing? Almost nobody. Like, there’s no quality control, there’s no label  on the air.  You know what you’re drinking, you know what you’re eating, most of the time, or at least you try to trust the labels.

Jürgen:  That’s right.

Jacques:  And for the air? Nothing. That’s what we’re fighting against. It’s being, now, okay, you have to look at this important ingredient of your life.

Jürgen:  Yeah, it’s really important, because you can do without water or food for maybe even half a day, or even a day, but certainly not air.

Jacques:  With the air, just sixty seconds.

Jürgen:  Sixty seconds. All right.  Within AirBoxLab, what do you spend most of your time doing day to day?

Jacques:  Well, like right now, it’s really the rush with the industrialization phase. We are about to, we should be pressing the mass production button on the beginning of December. Fingers crossed.

Jürgen:  Exciting!

Jacques:  Yeah, it’s exciting, but it’s still, iterating a lot, like we’ve been doing for the last few months. Then, making the final, last and final decision on the device, making sure everything is running fine. We know that, it’s also the good thing with the startup, you can iterate faster, but still, you have to deliver a strong, a good device. So it’s a mix of going fast of the time to market, but also making sure that, you know, just, you don’t want to deliver something that would not be reliable.

Right now we are racing for the final stages, the final countdown with the industrialization and the mass production launch due December 4th, or really the beginning of December.  It’s a real challenge, and during the next few weeks, we have to make the final decision on options we might still have on the device, developing the app at the same time, improving everything.

Actually, we’re not starting from scratch, because a year ago, we started the very first product, which was the proof of concept, and we went on an Indiegogo campaign. The idea was to, not to give the hundred beta units to families and friends to have the beta test, but to find first customers based on the prototype. We did that, we sold the hundred beta units in twenty-four countries, and had this beta run that did last for about six months.  We got a lot of feedback, and from that we reworked everything, the design, the app, the name. So it’s going to be like a second product that will be the very first one that we’ll be launching end of the year, depending on, yeah, then after the beginning of next year. That’s the, it’s going to be soon ready to push the “go” button.

Jürgen:  That’s great. So you had an extensive pilot-scale testing for six months?

Jacques:  Yeah, and that’s important in the case of this, because it’s such new device, it wasn’t made before. You can find some product that have either, one has the VOC, the other one has  PM sensor, like they have in China, because it’s really a big issue for them. But it was the first time that a startup was really putting together these two ingredients and start working with it, so it’s also even more complicated. So it require more beta run.

Jürgen:  Where are you going to commercialize first, which countries?

Jacques:  Well, actually, what we saw also within the Indiegogo campaign, we saw that the two first markets that would be eager to have the device was the United States and China. Not for the same reason. China is because it’s the very first country which for, you have a visible issue. And they’re helping us raising awareness, because it’s so visible, it’s becoming so bad. So they’re in an emergency situation. And the States, because it’s a more mature country for “internet of thing” devices. It’s something that sounds already more common, or that people would be, okay, let’s go for it, let’s buy that device as another device. Whereas in Europe, it’s still the kind of, it’s happy few people who have the device, and were, like, early adopters. So it’s taking longer in Europe.

There are two thing that are sometimes awkward. The first one is that, actually, the indoor air quality in China is not worse than the one in Europe. It’s the idea that people have about it that is completely different. European people are convinced that the indoor air is fine, it’s okay, there’s no problem. And they’re wrong, because they’ve built so much more around energy saving, energy efficiency, that they’re confining, they’re just confining. Whereas in China, they don’t confine, but they have bigger outdoor pollution issue.

Jürgen:  Yeah, they certainly do.

Jacques:  Yeah, it’s two different ways, but actually, I think we’re really sharing the same problem with the Chinese people.

Jürgen:  Yeah, that’s great.  Okay. So what are some of the biggest challenges that you face in building this new business?

Jacques:  Well, it’s really the meaning of disrupting. The disruption is our biggest challenge, because we go from the very extreme laboratory appliances to a consumer good, and we’re, there’s no competition between the two, but this way of looking at it. I meet a lot of experts, scientific people, and I found experts on the air that were just amazed, couldn’t think that this would be possible. These people, they’re using PM sensors that could cost up to two hundred thousand dollars. They can’t just imagine, how can you just dare thinking about having a consumer-good device that could be measuring PM?

It’s really this, you know, trying to have the convincing, I mean, it’s  … So I believe a lot of, one of the challenge is experimentation.  It’s a device that we have to use a lot through experiments, so that people will take the device and they will see by themselves. They will use it, and the way they will use it, I think it’s a bit like, going backwards in 2008 with these personal scale that was tweeting. It’s something that, what the hell are you doing? What is this idea? I really strongly believe that it’s something we are bringing a real value for people. But we have to educate them, we have to make sure that they have, and they see the reason, the benefit.

Jürgen:  The benefit, yeah.  A lot of my guests have said exactly the same thing, basically, if you’ve got a disruptive technology, it’s educating the consumers or the potential customers about the benefits is one of the big challenges.

Jacques:  I remember three years ago about the quantified self, with the wristbands, and you know, measuring your body activity, and there were all journalists writing, “No, it’s not measuring properly. It’s relative measurements, so how you can trust that? There can be a difference of fifteen to twenty-nine percent of the accuracy of the sensors, so how can you use that?” Actually, I always told them, you don’t care. What you do care is the constant reading and is the long-term use of the device. It’s like a personal scale; everybody knows that there’s no one personal scale that is accurate, but it’s because you use always the same that you can compare your results.

Jürgen:  The same one, yeah.

Jacques:  It’s funny because you have this, it should be, you know, they should think about it automatically, but no, it’s new, so they are sceptical and ask a lot of questions, and, oh, okay, so now we start to see the benefit of using it. And the insurance company, interested in using the quantified self to improve the health and therefore the statistics of their customers.

Jürgen:  Yeah, it’s fascinating.

Jacques:  So yeah, you just have to make sure, as I used to say, the educating people is not a business model, so you have to find also your way in terms of  business to succeed. But it’s really, for me, it’s very important to have something that is doing good, making business and with a startup.

Jürgen:  Yeah, that’s great. So is there something that worries you, that keeps you awake at night?

Jacques:  Oh, just one thing? There are many, many things. Right now it’s really the challenge of giving birth to this device. It’s really, it’s such exciting, but also stressful challenge. But no, for the rest, I’ve always been enthusiast and optimistic person, so I really, I believe in the future. It should be, it will be working, I’m really convinced. What maybe awake me at night is also how long will it take to have people, you know, being convinced to have, like the [inaudible 35:50] want to be, okay, yeah, that’s what we need.  So going from the “nice to have” thing of the few people, to the “must have” thing that, oh, why didn’t we think about that before? I would like to get that state already.

Jürgen:  Yeah, okay. If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing within your business, what would that be?

Jacques:  Have the device delivered with a, on a huge truck at my door tomorrow morning.

Jürgen:  Okay, so what do you do when you’re not working? How do keep balance between all the stresses of a startup company, and getting to manufacture with a new device and so on?

Jacques:  I think it’s in my blood, so when I’m not working, I’m having little bit of sleep, spending little bit of time with my family, with my kids, but it’s really, no, it’s really, it’s something, I’m breathing business, and my startup is also breathing into me. That’s the, that’s really something, and I’ve always been like this. My balance is by being overloaded of work, with what I’m into it. If when I don’t do that, I’m getting nuts.

Jürgen:  Okay.

Jacques:  And they know that, my wife and the kids, they know that. As long as I’m really into it, busy, this is how I feel the best.

Jürgen:  So you’re happiest that way.  Okay, do you read, have you read some interesting books recently that you’d recommend to our audience?

Jacques:  Well, this one, but it was two or three years ago, the biography from Steve Jobs was really something, I remember. It was actually a summer where I spent some times in Italy, was reading that, and at the same time, I was starting the kind of business plan for my startup. I still have it in mind was really a great, great time.  And that’s the one I still have in mind.

Jürgen:  That might explain, because I saw photos and some videos of the device on your website and on other sites, and it certainly has that Apple-esque, if you like, design element to it, in terms of the overall appearance and that. Maybe that’s the influence there.

Jacques:  Well, could be.

Jürgen:  Okay. What do you see as risks and opportunities in innovation, opportunity cost?

Jacques:  What do you mean with opportunity cost?

Jürgen:  Well, the risk of innovation. We talk a lot in this podcast about innovation, but it’s not just about innovation at all costs, there’s usually risks involved and opportunity costs. What do you see as those, and how do you deal with that too? Like you said, it’s important to have a good business model and make sure that the benefits can actually be turned, and the education can actually be turned into a business.

Jacques:  Well, that’s something that is really stressful for the, how do I startup, is that you have to reach quickly high volume so that you get the scale of, you know, economy, scale of economy, because if not, you’re dead. It’s something because, you are working on a mass market consumer good, so the cost and the price, [take 40:06] price is so important.  Whatever the service that you embed, the brain, the intelligence that you embed in your device, it’s something that is really the, a step that you have to succeed in that.

Yeah, we’ve had this chance, because, and also thanks to this crowdfunding campaign, we emerged, and we had then people knocking at our door, saying, businesses knocking at doors, saying, wow, the thing you created, it’s something I’ve been thinking, dreaming about it for years.  I mean, it’s not directly in my business, but I see the potential of raising awareness, of being, you know, keeping this thought leadership on my business and my field. It’s simply great, because thanks to that, we’ve been able to work on B to B to C partnership. So going without, you know, being strictly on the B to C  market, with selling one-by-one unit. That’s really something that is helping us and is a, yeah, I think that’s the best achievement we’ve done til now, to have that, so that we are in the capacity of having our costs really mastered and can work further on.

Jürgen:  Yeah, that’s good advice. So capacities of scale and managing cash flow, I guess, as well.

Jacques:  Yeah, because it does take cash flow because of the hardware.

Jürgen:  Okay. Well, let’s move on to the Buzz, which is our innovation round, where this is designed to help our audience learn from your experience and get some tips. There’s about five or six questions, and hopefully you’ll have just a one-line answer for us that will blow the audience away.

Jacques:  Okay.

Jürgen:  What’s the number one thing you think anyone needs to do to be more innovative?

Jacques:  For me, it’s disrupt. Don’t just think out of the box, just don’t take things for granted. That’s the number one thing. Go against the mainstream and create your own stream.

Jürgen:  Yeah, that’s great, I like it. What’s the best thing you’ve done to develop new ideas?

Jacques:  In a way, it’s not thinking the way people think but questioning, Once you start questioning what is around you, what are the businesses, what are the ideas, what people are doing, and staying eager on curiosity, always question, and put new questions on the table. It’s amazing how many answers you can get once you start.

Jürgen:  That’s great. One of my guests recently talked about asking why seven times, so that every time they have a suggestion, there’s seven times they have to ask why, and each time you get a new insight or idea.

All right. Do you have a tool or a system for innovation or improving productivity around innovation?

Jacques:  Actually, no. I mean, working hard, iterating, and that’s really something that is so strong, so powerful with the startups. Also, being open right from the beginning. It’s the complete opposite model of the old-fashioned industry.  Keep it open, let your competitor, take them on board, but then you’ll just be racing faster than they will be. So, that’s something, that for the innovation, is something I’ve learned with the startup, and I think it’s so strong for that.

Jürgen:  More about the open sourcing model rather than trying to keep everything secret and in-house. [crosstalk 44:41]  What’s the best way to keep a client or a project on track?

Jacques:  Being close to them and open in the way you do business with them. I would say, it’s considering them like partner and not customers or providers. It’s really [cooperating 45:08] the project. That’s how we work.

Jürgen:  Okay. That’s great, great advice. Finally, what’s the number one thing you can do to differentiate yourself?

Jacques:  I don’t consider, wouldn’t consider me as a genius, it’s, you know, we always say, it’s like, the use of the brain, what’s the percentage of the brain you use? It’s one percent genius, ninety-nine percent labor and hard work. There’s no magic powder for that. I think it’s just, but going fast is really one thing, and of course, not being afraid of really sticking to your vision, meaning going, really, not away, but further down the road rather than just sticking to your idea and the technical, practical things. That’s something that is very important. And if you’re open, you do that easier than when you just keep it everything closed, secret, into your box. The more input you have on the project, so the more open you are, the better you’ll be.

Jürgen:  So push the boundaries a little bit.

Jacques:  Yes.

Jürgen:  All right. Well, that’s great. So what’s the future for you and for AirBoxLab, then? Obviously, you’ve got the big launch, production launch, and commercialization coming?

Jacques:  That’s the very next step, and then, of course, expansion. Then, part of our vision is to, I’m really looking at making the “internet of caring.” That’s something also I have in mind from the beginning of startup, and it’s something that I’m already working on. Beyond connecting devices is the, really the meaning of the use and what you bring to people. So, internet of caring is my next project. Actually, so, in terms of, could be hardware, software that we’ll be starting as soon as we launch the device.

Also, we’re really eager to learn from the users, to see, I’m convinced we will learn a lot, I’m convinced we will find new things based on users’ way of using and sharing with the device. So that’s going to bethe evolution of the device.

Jürgen:  Internet of caring is a fascinating concept. All the discussion around “internet of things,” it’s kind of a little abstract. A lot of people don’t really grasp what it is. You talk about connecting machines with machines, and then they forget all about, well, if everything’s automated and the caring aspect coming into that, is a different approach.

Jacques:  An internet of caring means that the human is, you keep the human in the center of the system. That’s something that is, I consider as important.

Jürgen:  Yeah, that’s great. Thanks for that, Jacques. Now I just want to remind the listeners again and the viewers about the competition, the prize is a copy of Big Bang Disruption. We’ve talked quite a bit about disruptive innovation today, and that book’s by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes, and it is all about strategy in the age of what the authors call “devastating innovation.” It’s innovation that’s actually turning things upside down for us, so how do you prepare yourself for that and how can you take advantage of the opportunities.

Now to enter this competition, what we’ve thought of is, if you leave a comment under this video, and in fact tell us how you think the Alima Air Quality Monitor can help your own home, your own quality of life, and what features you think it should have to make it even more useful for you. So thinking a little bit about what Jacques has just said about the Internet of Caring, is there an idea you can come back with for Jacques and his team there? And if you leave a comment under the video, I’ll get Jacques to swing by in a few weeks and award that prize. Is that okay, Jacques?

Jacques:  Yeah, fine, great.

Jürgen:  Okay. In conclusion, then, what’s the number one piece of advice you’d given any business who wants to be a leader in their field in innovation?

Jacques:  I think the thing is, always you say, go against the no. That’s something that is also in the disruption. So the complementary thing is, don’t look for the yes. That’s the two part of the way you have to move forward.

Jürgen:  Okay, terrific.  Thanks. It’s been really great, Jacques, thanks. Where can people reach out to you and say thank you for everything that you shared with us?

Jacques:  Thanks for your time, for your people listening, being on your podcast too. Yeah, my door is always open, even if it’s only an e-door, can always knock at my door, love to keep the conversation open, that’s for sure.

Jürgen:  So are you on Twitter, or on LinkedIn?

Jacques:  Yeah, Twitter is Jacques Touillon, we have a Facebook page with Alima and AirBoxLab, on the website you can find me pretty easily, on LinkedIn, too, with Jacques Touillon. Yeah, there’s many ways of knocking on my door.

Jürgen:  We’ll post links to all that underneath the video. Finally, then, who would you like to see me interview on the InnovaBuzz podcast in the future and why?

Jacques:  Well, there’s a guy I’m just been in touch with recently, and the interesting thing is that, we’re almost at the same stage of implementing and launching a device. He’s in the quantified self, in the health business. His startup is called Astute, it’s based in California. It’s Nick Vassilakis, I can give you his mail. It’s interesting because he’s in the same process of using sensors and going to help people in the health and wellness also. So it’s [inaudible 52:35] and I love his way of approaching the “Internet of Thing” market or concept.

Jürgen:  Okay, well, thanks for that. So Nick, courtesy of Jacques Touillon, look out for an e-mail from me, inviting you to the podcast.

Jacques:  Yeah, great.

Jürgen:  Well, Jacques, thank you so much for spending time with us. It’s been, I think we’ve been on for over an hour already. It’s been really fascinating to learn about what you’re doing and how you’re approaching it, the whole philosophy around the internet of caring and making the internet of things have a personal aspect with that human brain, if you like. So thank you very much. I look forward to seeing how your commercialization goes, and looking forward to hearing more about AirBoxLab and the Alima device, so I wish you all the best and I hope things go well with that launch.

Jacques:  Thank you.  Okay, great. We’ll keep in touch.

Jürgen:  Thank you. Bye-bye.

Jacques:  See you then, everybody.


I hope you enjoyed meeting Jacques as much as I enjoyed interviewing him on the podcast.

He is an inspiring entrepreneur with a vision to turning the Internet of Things into the Internet of Caring and improving peoples lives by doing so.

Of course, you can subscribe to this Podcast via iTunes or Stitcher, so that you’ll never miss a future episode.

All the show notes for this episode will be at innovabiz.com.au/airboxlab, that is A-I-R-B-O-X-L-A-B, all lowercase, all one word, innovabiz.com.au/airboxlab for all of the links and everything we spoke about in this episode.  Remember, leave your comments underneath the video for your chance to win a copy of Big Bang Disruption, by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes.

Leave a comment under the video and tell us how you think the Alima Air Quality Monitor can help your own home, your own quality of life, and what features you think it should have to make it even more useful for you. So thinking a little bit about what Jacques said about the Internet of Caring, is there an idea you can come back with for Jacques and his team there?  If you leave a comment under the video, I’ll get Jacques to swing by in a few weeks and award that prize.

Jacques nominated Nick Vassilakis of Astute, to be on a future podcast. So, Nick, keep an eye on your Inbox for an invitation from me, for the Innovabuzz Podcast!

If you like these podcast episodes, please give us a five star review over at iTunes.  It really does help to get more listeners and to share this information with a bigger audience.  And I really do want to share these gems, that people so generously share with us on the podcast with as many people as I can.

So, Until next time.

Remember, if you don’t innovate, you stagnate, so think big, be adventurous and innovate on!

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Jürgen Strauss

Dr. Jürgen Strauss is The World's Best Human-Centred Podcasting Coach and the only Podcast Innovator with the signature bright yellow headphones, who masterfully crafts human connection for high-impact achievers in a vibrant community. You can find Jürgen on LinkedIn, The InnovaBuzz Podcast, The Flywheel Nation Community as well as on Innovabiz' InstagramTwitter, Facebook pages and his personal Photography website.  

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