Auckland AI start-up takes on underage vaping in schools

MACSO, an Auckland-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) start-up has developed technology to combat the escalating vaping issue within schools and public spaces. Funded by US investors, the company aims to identify and quantify air pollutants specifically from vape and cigarette smoke. Trials have already exhibited a reduction in illicit vaping within one New Zealand middle school.

MACSO’s collaboration with US company, Piera Systems, facilitates the implementation of the AI model. Piera Systems, renowned for creating an extensive selection of intelligent particle sensors, provides the necessary hardware. Raj Seelam, VP of Marketing and Customer Success at Piera, indicates Piera as the only low-cost centre with ‘scalable sensors to detect particle data’.

Saba Samiei, MACSO’s founder, shared her concerns about the growing vaping issues within schools. ‘Vaping has been an issue in schools, particularly in bathrooms. The number of New Zealanders aged 15-17 who vaped daily nearly quadrupled from under two percent in 2018-19 to seven percent in 2021-22, according to data from the New Zealand Health Survey.’

In a recently accomplished trial, MACSO had placed a device in a bathroom at Cambridge Middle School. The impact was momentous, within two weeks the bathroom had become vape free as students quickly recognised they would be caught if they used vape products. Natalie Marsh, Assistant Principal at the Cambridge Middle School reflected on the success, highlighting students’ feeling of increased safety in using the bathrooms.

From an article in FutureFive New Zealand – Consumer technology news & reviews from the future