Smog makes purifiers must-have appliances

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Smog makes purifiers must-have appliances

The ever-dirtier air in Korea has sparked consumer interest in air purifiers for the home and local electronics companies are cranking out new models, including ones that use the Internet of Things technology.

The number of air purifiers sold last year was one million units compared to 900,000 in 2015 and 500,000 in 2014. In money terms, sales of air purifiers amounted to 1 trillion won ($894.2 million) last year - which may grow to 1.5 trillion won this year, according to industry insiders.

Discount chain E-Mart reported a 60.8 percent increase year on year in air purifier sales between March 1 and 23. Electronics retailers Lotte Hi-Mart said its air purifier sales rose 30 percent year on year from March 1 through 22.

“With the influx of Chinese smog and lack of rain, the number of days with excessive fine dust was particularly high this year,” said Cho Yong-wook, E-Mart’s buyer for electronics. “As a consequence, we’re seeing a sharp increase in customers shopping for air purifiers.”

A decade ago, few Korean households considered buying air purifiers. This started changing a few years ago as the public became more aware of the harmful effects of particulate matter, or hazardous particles with diameters smaller than 10 micrometers, on the human body.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Research, the Korea Meteorological Administration issued warnings for excessive amounts of particulate matter in the air 129 times between January and March, a 84 percent increase compared to last year’s 70. These warnings, sent as text messages to the public, are issued when the hourly average of fine particles exceeds 150 micrograms per one cubic meter for over two hours. The government advises people to stay home in such alerts.

Spring is when the amount of fine dust particles peaks.

Electronic appliance producers are capitalizing on the demand. One strategy is to go “smart” with the use of Internet of Things technology.

Woongjin Coway introduced an air purifier in the early 2000s. Last month it released an air purifier and humidifier called IoCare. With Internet of Things technology, owners can access IoCare’s analysis of the quality of the air through a smartphone app. This analysis is used to decide which filter the owner should purchase and when it should be replaced.

Samsung Electronics has been selling air purifiers under the brand name Blue Sky since 2014. The company included “smart home” functions in a model released in January. Blue Sky 6000 connects to an owner’s smartphone via Wi-Fi and can be operated via the phone.

LG Electronics’ air purifier line PuriCare has a similar smart home app, SmartThinQ.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]

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