AirQuality Sensing Powered by Citizen Science
Air pollution affects all regions of the world. However, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted. According to the latest air quality database, 97% of cities in low- and middle- income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 49%. The associated health impacts of this reality are scary. As air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them . However, most cities in developing countries have poor or inexistent air quality monitoring systems. This has been due mostly to the high prices and sofistication of air quality monitoring devices.
Low-cost and easy-to-use measuring devices for air quality determinants and noise, such us the one produced by open-seneca, have become available. Understanding the limitations of this type of devices in comparison to high-end exemplars regarding data accuracy and coverage, they could become an powerful way of collecting data and involving the local population while doing it.
The Urban Pathways Project is involved in several sustainable urban mobility projects in developing countries, which have a great potential in terms of improving air quality and reducing noise in urban areas. Measuring the specific effects of the demonstration activities on these variables will be invaluable in quantifying the impact of the projects’ activities and thus the potential impact that replication and scaling-up of those measures could have at the local and national level, and ultimately at the global scale.
In this context, a partnership with open-seneca, a UK-based organisation, whose goal is to transfer knowledge on how to build open-source sensor hardware to raise awareness and initiate a behavioural change among local communities has been established. Open-seneca uses affordable, off-the-shelf particulate matter sensors, geo location, and wireless transmission modules for their devices. The collected data is displayed on dynamic maps on their online platform for identification of pollution hotspots. The sensor design is co-creation-based and tailored to local requirements to achieve a globally compatible and locally appropriate sensor.
At the same time, makerspaces have been identified in UP cities as potential local partners that could carry out the assembly workshops on-site based on the knowledge transfer received from open-seneca. Makerspaces are small-scale workshops that provide widespread access to modern means for invention / digital fabrication. Activities range from technological empowerment to peer-to-peer project-based technical training to local problem-solving to small-scale high-tech business incubation to grass-roots research.
The training concept
Open-seneca provided a virtual seminar to previously identified local makerspaces, universities or research centres in UP cities that have the skills and interest to build AQ measuring devices and that would be willing to replicate the workshops on site. After the training on how to build AQ sensors, UP cities were invited to participate in a second webinar that showcased the possible uses of the devices based on the experiences from Latin American cities.
- Create capacities on-site
- Raise awareness and empower the community on topics related to air pollution and the environment
- Contribute to the decision making process related to air pollution reduction
Note: For part 2 select the tab “Part 2” at the top of this section.