Practicalities of rolling out air quality sensor networks – Harnessing smart city infrastructure
Poor air quality is a major issue in communities across the UK and it continues to climb the agenda with public awareness growing of the real detrimental health effects. In order to identify issues, it is important to be able to make accurate measurements to quantify the problem areas. Low-cost air quality sensor-based systems are becoming more popular as they now provide scientifically credible data at reasonable cost, have lower servicing requirements and they come in a form factor that means they can be deployed in roadside locations. Previously these issues have been dealt with by diffusion tubes, which are also low cost and small enough to be located anywhere. However, the disadvantage of diffusion tubes is the manpower required to deploy and collect them and the lack of temporal data to see problem days and times of the day. This high time resolution data is important for managing air quality.
Locating Sensor Based Monitors The systems require a secure location to mount them which in a city/town centre is not always easy to find. They also need power to run effectively, as solar does not yet provide the supply in the UK to run year-round without major compromises to the data collection rates and quality. Finally, these systems will need communications such as wifi, LAN or cellular coverage. These issues multiplied many times for a high-density network can be a challenge, but it is not a challenge unique to Air Quality sensors.
Our towns and communities are filling with ‘smart city’ infrastructure such as street lighting, charging points, bus shelters, mobile phone masts and much more. All of this hardware will have similar issues when it comes to locating them. If air quality sensors are considered with other infrastructure, then costs can be reduced significantly. If we take the rollout of 5G for example, this will require a huge investment in new hardware and many more sites will be required. It is estimated 40 to 50% of operating costs for mobile phone infrastructure is for rent paid to property owners for mast locations. Adding air quality sensors to the mast could provide additional revenue and value for communities.
With joined-up thinking air quality monitoring networks can be rolled out sooner and more efficiently. This will enable decision-makers to tackle the issue more effectively to protect us all from the serious adverse health effects of poor air quality.