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Everyone can benefit from real-time air quality checks

Every choice we make has consequences. In terms of transport, our choices have an environmental impact. One way of increasing the ability of citizens to make informed choices is to create systems that provide real-time data on changes to parameters such as air quality.
“Using a combination of sensors and the development of the Internet of Things, we are able to gather and present data in a more effective manner,” says Katrin Persson, senior project manager specialising in sensors and sensor systems at RISE.

Sensor systems have been placed in locations all over Gothenburg in order to measure air pollution (NOx, particles and noise) and overflows of polluted storm water. The project, christened LoV-IoT, an abbreviation of the Swedish for air (luft) and water (vatten) and the Internet of Things, is managed by the City of Gothenburg’s environmental administration. Sensors are linked to the internet; incoming data is processed in real time and could eventually be made available to the public in real time via digital communications platforms such as mobile telephones.

Investigate if multiple sensors can give better outcome

The project uses relatively cheap and readily available sensors and the platform is constructed to allow these to be easily replaced to reflect rapid developments in the field. One of the ideas behind the project is to investigate how multiple sensors and combinations of sensors can provide a more high-definition basis for decision making that is comparable with and is validated against a costly reference station. 

“We were also keen to keep our options open; we want to be able to replace sensors as and when the technology develops.”

To a certain extent, the entire project is a continuation of the Environmental Weather project; however, the new project goes a step further by also monitoring storm water pollution. In addition to Gothenburg, Uppsala and Chilean capital Santiago have also joined the project, and the same sensor systems will be tested there.

“For Gothenburg’s part, such a solution is especially relevant. Bearing in mind the major West Link infrastructure project that is currently underway, it is good that everyone is able to directly monitor the environmental impact of the works,” says Katrin Persson.

Uplinked sensors measure storm water

The project is the first to use uplinked sensors to measure storm water, the result of rain or melting snow and ice, at various places around the water network. As major cities become increasingly densely populated, available space for storm water to collect decreases, with a large proportion draining into the municipal water system. Sensors in drains allow the monitoring of when and where overflows are occurring (in combined wastewater systems, polluted wastewater is mixed with rainwater in large flows), as well as water turbidity over time.

Wide range of competences

The project gathers a wide range of competences; for example, RISE is contributing expertise in sensors and systems. Other partners in the project include the City of Gothenburg, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Talkpool, Vinnter and Ericsson.

“This is a first step; looking forward, it is easy to imagine solutions that sprinkle even more sensors across wider areas,” says Katrin Persson.

“The Internet of Things is developing rapidly, making it even more important that we carefully check all data obtained from the sensors.”

When all is said and done, perhaps in the future it will be entirely natural to check not only the quickest route to our destination, but also which roads have the least polluted air. Or perhaps we will check noise levels before completing the purchase of a new home.

“The hope is that, as monitoring air pollution becomes easier, we will see more changes to behaviour with more people choosing to cycle or travel by public transport,” says Katrin Persson.

Published: 2018-10-22