Adverse effects of air pollution are becoming more apparent, which has led to a new generation of small, portable, and affordable air sensors that are revolutionizing pollution measurements for citizen scientists and governments which are using the new technology to improve the quality of life in their own communities.
Such new technological innovations remain the key to survival in market for air quality monitors, according to BCC Research. Recent examples include sensors such as the AirBeam and San Francisco-based Aclima company's sensor nodes, which measure the air of U.S. metropolitan areas in real-time. These types of sensors, which connect to the Internet, allow datasets of air quality to be compiled and analyzed in efforts to make city air safer for inhabitants.
There is movement afoot—and by car, if you will—to raise awareness of air pollution and its real impact on our everyday lives.
GOOGLE, ACLIMA, AND THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO
Aclima builds sensor networks that monitor environmental impacts at a hyperlocal scale. The company, which designs and deploys distributed large scale sensor networks, collects, processes, and analyzes real-time streaming data. Mostly catering to commercial and government sectors, Aclima recently partnered with Google’s Street View fleet to map greenhouse gas emissions and air quality in California.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of Aclima’s research partners, manages an extensive network of air quality monitoring stations across the country. To assess if air quality is meeting – or exceeding – public health standards, the EPA relies on this network of stationary equipment to measure carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbons and photochemical oxidants.
Aclima’s mobile sensing platform on Google's Street View cars complements EPA’s regional air measurement network by introducing a new body of knowledge about air quality at the street level.
Street View vehicles equipped with Aclima’s mobile sensing platform map outdoor air quality by traversing a city’s busiest arteries, intersections, and neighborhood streets. By seeing how air patterns change throughout a city over the course of a day, the data provide awareness of local air quality and can be used to find solutions that mitigate exposure to pollution.
A WEARABLE MONITOR THAT MEASURES POLLUTION IN REAL-TIME
Meanwhile, residents in the South Bronx and Brooklyn are using an air quality monitor called the AirBeam, which fits in the palm of one's hand to measure the fine particulate matter that gets into lungs and causes hospitalization and premature death from heart and respiratory disease. The AirBeam can also transmit measurements via a smartphone to crowdsourced datasets like AirCasting that map out the recorded air readings.
AirCasting is an open-source, end-to-end solution for collecting, displaying, and sharing health and environmental data using a smartphone. The platform consists of wearable sensors that detect changes in your environment and physiology. By documenting and leveraging health and environmental data to inform personal decision-making and public policy, the AirCasting platform empowers citizen scientists and changemakers, according to the platform's website.
The AirBeam uses a light scattering method to measure fine particulate matter. Air is drawn through a sensing chamber wherein light from an LED bulb scatters off particles in the airstream. A detector registers the light scatter, which is then converted into a measurement that estimates the number of particles in the air.
“I think it’s a real eye-opener,” said Michael Heimbinder, founder and executive director of HabitatMap, a New York-based environmental justice organization that developed AirCasting, tells nextcity. "What are the trends over the course of the day? What are the hot spots? If I walk two streets away, will my exposure be less?”
The device's measurements are transmitted via Bluetooth once a second to the AirCasting Android app, which maps and graphs the data in real time on a smartphone. At the end of each AirCasting session, the collected data is sent to the AirCasting website, where the data is crowdsourced with data from other AirCasters to generate heat maps indicating where particle concentrations are highest and lowest.
BCC Research estimates that while the overall market for air quality monitors is witnessing strong growth, the outdoor air quality monitoring market is particularly strong, resulting in a rise in market share from 33.1% in 2015 to 33.6% in 2016 and to projected 36.6% in 2021.