Urban Air Quality – Start Monitoring Now

Urban Air Quality – Start Monitoring Now

In the past few years the conversation around vehicle emissions, especially in urban areas, has grown into a highly heated debate.It recently emerged that the UK government plans to ban all new diesel and petrol cars by 2040 as part of their ongoing bid to tackle air pollution.

Nitrogen dioxide is the big sticking point as it has been recently discovered that diesel vehicles are the biggest culprit in harmful emissions, contrary to prior advice from the government that it was in fact the cleaner choice of fuel.The Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, put the onus of change on local authorities challenging them to come up with imaginative solutions to the problem.

Working in environmental data monitoring and IoT we believe the most intelligent first step for agencies will be to establish current levels of toxins to use as a benchmark to determine the success of their proposed strategies. Local authorities can only gauge the success of the solutions put in place if they are constantly monitoring their effects and the sooner the start the richer the base insight will be. Councils should also be looking at the wealth of resources within their own communities for example the ODI Leeds, a city-based collaborative space recently held an AirHack Day where innovations on bettering air quality were discussed.

Investing in cutting edge wide area networks in IoT would also be a shrewd move. It would be cost effective and efficient for local councils to consider using an array of sensors connected to a LoRaWAN unit. These could be installed on the side of buildings or street lighting. LoRaWAN is the best choice thanks to its ability for long range communication as a single base station would be able to cover a large radius within the city centre.

Leeds City Centre, for example, would require at least 50 of these arrays to monitor:

  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Air Pressure
  • Carbon Monoxide and Dioxide
  • Molecular Oxygen
  • Ozone
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Sulfur Dioxide
  • Methane
  • Particle Matter

To make the system even smarter, JGPS could also be used to assist decision making. Adding GPS co-ordinates to all of the sensors and feeding the information to a cloud-based platform, would allow the user to map out the sensor network and in doing so show these units on a heat map. The same platform could then be used to visualise and query this data over time.

Looking for trends in the time of day, weather and events that may be occurring. You could even use footfall sensors to understand the effect congestion has on the increase or decrease in air quality. This can then be used to give insight into whether a congestion measure can have any affect.

However local councils gain their information, the main point is that they start doing it soon. More and more pressure is going to be put on local authorities to come up with ideas on tackling this ongoing issue and the smarter the system is, the more its futureproofed and the less money will be needed down the line to upgrade the system.

About Hark: Hark helps companies that need to monitor, store and analyse business-critical environmental information. All the directors are from the North and are proactive in showcasing what the North has to offer as well as being proud to launch cutting edge technology in Leeds. With backing from Microsoft, Hark is made up of a young team with the average age of the members being only 25.

 Follow Hark and Jordan on Twitter here: @harksys @Jordanisonfire

Jordan Appleson
  • Interesting approach, and I am sure people will be interested in the dat, analysis and what they can do with their lives to improve them. Obviously, some data will be somewhat alarming as they may exceed guidance or legal levels, and that has to be taken into account.

    As a ex environmental scientist, I wonder why you are using Sulfur (American spelling) rather than Sulphur and Nitric Oxide rather than NOx or Nitrous Oxides. The Nitrogen Oxides are possibly confused with Acidic vapours. People perhaps relate to PM10 particle size, and with the ‘soot’ element of diesel fumes, it may be useful to clarify what all these air quality measures mean, in terms of health, quality of living, levels that are being aimed at and legislative amounts.,

    If you are going to have temperature, air pressure and humidity, you might as well add rainfall, wind speed and direction and visibility, as the visitors will be looking at this as much as anything.

    The downside of the information being published is that it can be used by organisations to point out how good they are compared with you, so you would hope that the region and city would have a plan and aspiration to improve things rapidly so progress to a clean environment could be seen as a benefit of the effort to report it.

    Sep 29, 2017 at 3:26 pm

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