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  • David Lowenbrand

Starter Guide: Air Quality Sensors and Management for Smart Cities

Urban Air Quality

Air pollution is a critical issue globally. According to WHO, 9 out of 10 people live in areas with unsafe air quality. Major pollutants like ozone and particulate matter are also climate pollutants, impacting global climate protection efforts. Cities have managed air quality for decades, as it directly affects health and quality of life. With smart city projects, new technologies like IoT-based sensors and AI allow even small and medium-sized cities to address air quality.

Goals of Air Quality Monitoring

When planning an air quality project, determine the purpose of data collection. This affects the choice of technology, measurement accuracy, and network density. Key goals include:

  • Legally Mandated Monitoring: Government regulations often require a minimum number of monitoring stations.

  • Citizen Information: Providing public data via portals or apps helps raise awareness and show the benefits of smart city projects.

  • Active Management: Data is used to plan and implement clean air actions, evaluate their success, and optimize resources.

  • Impact Analysis: Monitor the effects of city planning and management changes on air quality.

  • City Planning Foundation: Air quality data can support planning across various city departments.

  • Smart City Applications: Integrate air quality data into other smart city systems like traffic management.

Key Air Quality Parameters

Important parameters include:

  • Carbon Monoxide (CO): From traffic, industry, and heating systems.

  • Nitrogen Monoxide and Dioxide (NO and NO2/NOx): From traffic and industry.

  • Ozone (O3): Formed from reactions of other pollutants.

  • Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5): From traffic, industry, and various sources.

Measurements are typically in µg/m³, ppm, or ppb. Data analysis often uses mean values and air quality indices.

Best Measurement Technologies

Various technologies for collecting air quality data include:

  • Traditional Automated Stations: Highly accurate but expensive and labor-intensive.

  • Passive Collectors: Test tubes for specific pollutants, providing average concentrations after lab analysis.

  • Citizen Science Sensors: Low-cost but less accurate sensors developed by open source communities.

  • Calibrated Air Quality Sensors: Developed for smart cities, offering quality-controlled data at lower costs. These sensors need maintenance every 2-3 years and are often available via rental or as-a-service models.

Choosing Monitoring Locations

Voluntary measurements may not follow national regulations but should consider them for site selection. Include traffic, industrial, and background sites. Involve citizens as sensor hosts to enhance network coverage and engagement.

Selecting the Best Solution

Consider these factors when choosing an air quality monitoring solution:

  • Features: Ensure sensors measure relevant parameters and include software for data analysis and public sharing.

  • Service Scope: Determine if you need support with site selection, installation, data analysis, and sensor maintenance.

  • Operating Model: Decide between purchasing sensors or opting for rental/as-a-service models for quality-controlled data.

  • Expandability: Choose modular systems with APIs for future expansions and data accessibility.

  • Cost: Evaluate pricing, especially for pilot projects, which can often be implemented quickly and cost-effectively.

For a deeper understanding, visit If you have feedback or plan an air quality project, contact us.

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