While Singapore coughs and wheezes, startups see clear opportunities

HazeStartups have to see opportunities in every situation. And in this haze, these startups sure saw things pretty clearly in Singapore.

A couple of days back, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia were hit pretty badly by the haze coming from Sumatra, Indonesia. It was the result of open burning techniques used to grow oil palm and timber plantations in the largest country in Southeast Asia.

The city-state, Singapore, saw its Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) skyrocket to a 16-year record-high of 401 last Thursday. In Muar, Malaysia, the PSI Air Pollution Index (API) reached 746 and the government declared a state of emergency in the province.

For those unclear on the PSI range: 0-50 (Good with no health effects), 51-100 (Moderate with few health effects on the general population), 101-200 (Mild aggravation of symptoms among susceptible persons), 201-300 (Very Unhealthy with moderate aggravation of symptoms and decreased tolerance in persons with heart or lung disease, and more widespread symptoms of transient irritation in the health population), and above 301 (Hazardous with an early onset of certain diseases in addition to significant of symptoms in susceptible persons, and decreased exercise tolerance in healthy persons).

Find a problem and solve it

But even while all hell broke loose and Singapore’s citizens entered into a state of pandemonium, startups in Singapore took it upon themselves to supply tech solutions and equipment. These opportunists in the “little red dot” started creating sites, crawling data from National Environment Agency and providing real-time PSI in a more visual manner. The best I have seen so far would be Dashsell’s PSI web and mobile app (available only on Android), which uses colors to identify haze levels. The startup is an intelligent advisor for casual sellers which help distribute their listings to popular online marketplaces. Well, their PSI service received 60,000 unique visitors in just 24 hours.

So, what problem did they solve? Needless to ask, it was to help give a visual representation of haze levels throughout Singapore, which wasn’t quite aesthetically pleasing on the original data providers, NEA. It also gave a summary of tweets with the hashtag #sghaze. Other startups also joined in the fun with web apps. One of them was Replaid, which had earlier helped drivers avoid pesky ticket officers with an app, Summon Auntie. However, this time, it is rather minimalistic — the web app only shows the three-hour and current estimate numbers.

UPDATE: Looks like developers are definitely stepping up and giving this haze their best shot. Our reader, Bhagaban Behera, shared that there are another two web apps, Singapore PSI Chart and We Wear Masks, that make data “simple, yet visual and informative.” Through another reader, Laurent Thevenet, we also found out about #hazemap, which aggregates all tweets which feature the unique hashtag #sghaze and places them on a map according to their locations.

Besides giving people the numbers that they want in a more aesthetically pleasing manner, startups have also risen up to the occasion by having giveaways of the scarce N95 masks. One of these opportunists, Paktor, a dating app, has more than 2,500 N95 masks and will be giving out one for every download of the app. Commendable? Not to me. If they had gone out and given these masks out for free, using only photos and branding to capture this philanthropic attempt, perhaps I would think highly of them. But overall, they have showed that they do recognize an opportunity when it’s in front of them.

Read also: Never mind the haze, Singapore’s PopulationQuery helps you see clearly

Of course, there are definitely startups out there whose efforts to step in and help while this haze continues to annoy. If you know of any, please let us know. Meanwhile, stay safe and keep reading e27.

Featured Image Credit: Poached Mag

Elaine is a fervent believer that if there ever is a zombie apocalypse, we will all be snapping away at them with our phones and posting them onto Instagram. A Mass Communication graduate of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies, she enjoys writing about technology and entrepreneurs. When not hashtagging her way through all sorts of trouble, Elaine is probably contemplating how to write in the third person.

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