Micro-Climate System Simplifies Air Pollution Monitoring

December 12, 2017 Patrick Mannion

They say that “what gets measured, gets done.” In the context of air quality, it needs to get done faster. According to the World Health Organization, 7 million people died in 2012 as result of air pollution, making it the world's largest environmental health risk. The problem will only get worse as hyper-densification continues, with up to 66% of the world's population living in cities by 2050.

The urgency of the situation has challenged urban planners to come up with better means of monitoring air quality. In particular, real-time monitoring would allow city dwellers to be alerted, traffic controlled, trends analyzed, and fixes implemented.

In one well-known three-day research example, the city of Dublin (Ireland) outfitted 30 bikes with monitors and tracked data on carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, cigarette smoke, and air particulates.

But a larger-scale implementation requires a more reliable, scalable, secure, and efficient approach. To date, larger-scale approaches have been bulky, expensive, hard to deploy, consumed too much power, and lacked critical back-end analytics to provide actionable intelligence.

That situation is changing rapidly, thanks to innovations in the Internet of Things (IoT) that see full monitoring, communications, and analytics capabilities in a small box costing a fraction of current systems.

Miniature Monitoring, Big Benefits

An interesting example of the rate of innovation in the area of air quality monitoring comes in the form of Bosch's IoT-based Micro Climate Monitoring System (MCMS) shown in Figure 1. Measuring 30 x 25 x 15 cm, the system weighs only 4 Kg. With Bosch sensors and an Intel® Quark SoC on board, the system can monitor and analyze for carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone. The sensors can be swapped in and out as needed.

Figure 1. The Bosch Micro Climate Monitoring System enables rapid deployment of air pollution analytics. (Source: Bosch)

Critical to the MCMS's capabilities is that it can provide analytics right at the point of sensing, instead of having to relay data back to the cloud. For example, pollution limits can be set and then only significant deviations from those limits need to be sent to the cloud. This conserves power and preserves expensive bandwidth.

Along with pollutants, MCMS also monitors temperature, relative humidity, light (including ultraviolet), sound, and barometric pressure. Built-in data security enables trusted data delivery from all devices, with strong protection against tampering.

The MCMS is as rugged as it is flexible, allowing over-the-air (OTA) updates to minimize truck rolls. It also comes equipped with the necessary APIs for integration into local software solutions.

The end result is that compared to other options, MCMS gives 10 to 20 times more spatial coverage, shrinks physical footprint by 20x, and lowers cost by 10x (based on Bosch internal data).

With those metrics, the odds increase that monitoring and actionable intelligence will combine to outpace the health impacts of hyper-densification.

About the Author

Patrick Mannion

Patrick Mannion is a independent content developer and consultant who has been analyzing developments in technology for more than 25 years. Formerly Brand Director for EETimes, EDN, Embedded, Planet Analog, and Embedded.com, now part of AspenCore, he has also been developing and executing community-oriented online- and events-based engineer-to-engineer learning platforms. His focus is on connecting engineers to find novel design solutions and focused skills acquisition in the areas of Embedded, IoT, Test and Measurement, RF/Wireless, and Analog & Mixed-Signal Design.

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