What is the air really like right outside your window, and how does that compare to the air being breathed in another part of the country, or around the world? Now you can know with a neat little device called the Air Quality Egg. The Egg was launched last year on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter where it exceeded its initial $39,000 goal and raised more than $144,000 – a distinction that earned it a rank on Kickstarter's "best of 2012" list.

The goal for the Kickstarter campaign was not just to create the Air Quality Egg device itself but to establish a worldwide air-quality sensing network. A team of designers came up with the concept, which was born at a couple of "Internet of Things" meetings in New York City and Amsterdam. They all envisioned a series of sensors placed outside peoples' homes to track the greenhouse gases nitrogen oxide (NO2) and carbon monixide (CO), as well as temperature and humidity. Data would be transmitted online and posted where everyone could see and compare the resulting information.

The people who backed the Kickstarter campaign had the option, depending on how much they donated, to receive either a complete Air Quality Egg system or some of the components necessary to build their own at home. A pledge of $100 or more got people a fully assembled egg. People who pledged $250 got an Egg plus extra components that can track radiation, particulate matter and other substances.

It's been several months since the Kickstarter campaign ended and now the Air Quality Eggs have started to ship and go online. If you visit the Air Quality Egg website, you can see the data from devices in dozens of states, several Canadian provinces, most European countries, Japan and Australia. Digging into the data is both fun and illuminating. As of this writing, the only Air Quality Egg in Japan registers NO2 levels of 559 parts per million and CO levels of 10,097. A device in Arizona is registering NO2 levels of 392 and CO levels of 24,830.

In addition to the main website, there's also an #airqualityegg trending topic on Twitter, where users are reporting how well their devices are working. One user is reporting that he moved his Egg and the NO2 sensor seems to have failed, while others are replying that they did not have the same problem.

Beyond that there is also a dedicated Air Quality Egg wiki, with information on the hardware, software and the resulting data.

If you missed out on the Kickstarter campaign you can still order an Air Quality Egg online for $185 or some of the components for $95. 

Related air quality stories on MNN: