Aera Smart Home Fragrance Device is Heaven Scent

“I’d rather be a smart feller than a fart smeller,” or so said an old co-worker of mine whenever it was even vaguely appropriate to the conversation at hand. Of course, it’s a low-brow spoonerism that you don’t often hear in “polite society”. On the other hand, you have to agree that the basic sentiment is legitimate: it is, after all, much better to be smart than to sit around smelling…um…bad smells. That’s the train of thought that chugged through my brain late one day during CES2017; and it was set in motion by a sign proclaiming that the new product on display, Aera, was a “Smart Home Fragrance Device”.

Expecting to find another IoLT (Internet of Laughable Things) gadget—or at least an opportunity to use the “I’d rather be a smart feller…” line—I cheekily stopped at the booth and asked for a demo. From a humorous perspective, it was unfortunate that the Aera folks didn’t show me something akin to what I was expecting: a Bluetooth-enabled aerosol can of Febreze that could be pointed and made to spray on command via a shoddy iOS/Android app. I could have easily penned a sarcastic blog post with a pile of fart jokes and moved on. Instead, I spent the next half hour getting blown away (no, not the flatulence kind of blown away) by what I saw…and smelled.

Since it’s not a Bluetooth-enabled aerosol can (with Alexa Voice Service, if you please), what exactly is a “Smart Home Fragrance Device”? In Aera’s case, the simplest way to explain the basic concept behind the gizmo is—and I’m pretty certain about this—not the description the Aera folks would want to hear, mainly because it’s too simple of an explanation. But I’m going to begin with simplicity anyway because, well, I want y’all to be smart fellers and not…

From a smart home perspective, when you strip Aera down to the barest of essentials, you find a Wi-Fi-enabled, internet-connected, programmable and schedule-able, active air freshener. If you’re really into gadgets, that might sound kind of cool; but I think most people (including me) would think that’s one of the stupidest things someone could waste time inventing. After all, just because I slap a Wi-Fi radio in a kazoo attached to a hair dryer and design an “iKazoo” app to go with it doesn’t magically make the iAbomination something worthwhile to have.

Curb your un-enthusiasm, though, because calling Aera an “air freshener” is pretty close to journalistic malpractice. (I have insurance…) As I discovered during the demonstration, and now after several weeks of in-home testing, Aera is, in fact, a smart home fragrance device—and, in this case, each word in the moniker (“smart”, “home”, “fragrance”, and “device”) is an important descriptive aspect of Aera rather than being a list thrown together solely for marketing purposes.

Aera is part of Prolitec, a company that specializes in “Harness[ing] the power of scent to create a positive experience for customers and guests.” Prolitec isn’t some small, boutique, scented candle company, either. They’ve developed a patented “scent diffusion delivery system”—called AirQ—which the company uses to “provide uniform, hypoallergenic, ambient scenting services to a wide range of global clients in retail, hospitality, health & wellness, transportation, and real estate, including more than 75,000 installations in 83 countries, touching some 20 million people each day.” If you’ve ever been in an Abercrombie & Fitch retail store, a Hilton or W Hotels property, or a PERVERSE Sunglasses location, there’s a good chance you’ve sniffed a whiff or two of Prolitec’s “scentsational” work.

Aera’s use of AirQ technology is what elevates this smart home device way above the simple “air freshener” category. Here’s how it works:

Aera converts liquid fragrance compounds into tiny droplets which in turn explode into billions of fragrance molecules to blend with ambient air. This process forces the release of all fragrance ingredients at once so the whole fragrance can be experienced. This is important because traditional methods release fragrance ingredients serially in the order of their volatility preventing smelling the whole fragrance at once and cause the scent effect to change in character over time.

Aera doesn’t use propellant; and, according to the Aera people, the device “produces no harmful volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.” It doesn’t use ethanol or other solvents as a way of improving the evaporation of the fragrance chemicals, either. As a result, says the company, “Aera is the most eco-friendly air freshener on the market.”

The health benefits of the AirQ technology, on its own, wouldn’t necessarily make Aera overwhelmingly compelling. The actual scent molecules being dispersed in the air are just as important, if not more so—especially for me, since I dislike the smell of most air “freshener” products, including scented candles and plug-in diffusers. The fact that I’m an olfactory crybaby is what kept me so ensnared at the Aera booth during CES. Aera’s fragrances are designed by actual perfumers and “fragrance artists”. By the scent of things, they’re top-notch perfumers and fragrance artists, too.

Aera is actually a two-part system consisting of the device itself and a cylindrical fragrance capsule (3.5-inches tall and just under 2 inches in diameter) that slides into an opening on top of the device. Once a capsule is placed in the circular opening, a motorized mechanism slowly lowers it until barely one-half of an inch remains visible. Then Aera begins to buzz and starts scenting away. The buzzing noise, by the way, only happens when Aera is actively fragrant-ing. It’s not very loud, but the table or shelf you place Aera on might begin to vibrate with it. (You probably don’t want to put it on a nightstand next to your bed.)

There are six different fragrance capsules available at the moment: Odyssey, Moondance, Curiosity, Vibrance, Zephyr, and Poetry. You can order a free fragrance leaflet with “lift and sniff” samples of each scent. You can also take a five-question survey on Aera’s website, after which you’ll be presented with your personal “fragrance profile” and a recommended fragrance that’s the best match for you.

Fragrance capsules can be swapped out by pressing the eject button on the device, so you could change fragrances daily (if you’re into that kind of non-scentsical behavior). Partially filled capsules remain sealed and ready to be use again until they’re empty.

Aera connects to the Aera app on your smartphone/tablet via Wi-Fi. Once configured, Aera communicates with the main Aera server via your home internet connection. After creating an account, you can access info and history regarding your Aera(s) on your account page on Aera’s website. The Aera app allows you to program up to 20 different Aeras in your home with up to 20 different program/timer settings per Aera. Being able to manage multiple Aeras using one app is important because a single Aera is designed to fragrant-ize a room up to 2,000 square feet. Even if you live in a 2,000-square-foot home, though, Aera isn’t a whole-home scent device. The company hasn’t figured out how to pass scents through solid walls. (Slackers…)

The Aera Starter Set, which includes the device and a capsule containing the fragrance of your choice, sells for $189. Individual fragrance capsules cost $47. When I grimaced at the price of the capsules, the Aera folks told me that each capsule is expected to last for 1,400 hours of use—that’s approximately 60 days of operation when the device is set at level 5 and run for 12 hours each day.

Despite my initial pooh-poohing, Aera had me at first sniff. The AirQ technology does an amazing job of dispersing the fragrance, and, since it’s adjustable, the output can be tailored for any room size and any nose sensitivity. But what makes Aera a smart device that has impressed the hell out of me (as well as, to my big surprise, the rest of my family) is the delicate artistry of the individual fragrances. My wife fell in love with the fragrances so much that she wants me to figure out a way to install an Aera in her car. At $189 to begin with—and then $47 a pop for each cartridge—Aera isn’t the least expensive air freshener you can buy. But then Aera isn’t really an “air freshener”. It’s a Smart Home Fragrance Device, and it’s certainly made a smart feller out of me…which smells a whole lot nicer than the other option.