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The 2018 Team challenge

A sensor network enabled by citizen science

The forth cohort of Sensor CDT students is developing a low cost sensor network to measure air pollution. Most air pollution monitors are stationary but the students are developing a portable low power device which will allow citizens to measure air pollution. Sensor data collected by the participants will be made publicly available to provide a real time map of air pollution.

Low-cost and accurate sensor technologyprototypes 1

Air pollution, notably NOx,CO2 and particulate matter concentrations, pose a current health problem to citizens in many cites around the world. Reliable pollutant measurements are key to make informed decisions with regards to traffic management or providing advise to vulnerable people, such as the elderly, children or people with respiratory conditions.

Many cities and regions have installed fixed air monitoring stations. While these provide accurate data at their location, it is difficult to extrapolate these measurements to other places, e.g. from one main road junction to another, or between two sides of a busy road which can be affected differently due to local air flow patterns.

The air pollution sensor under development by the team of ten students aims to detect NOx and particulate matter using off-the-shelf sensors costing around £20. While these sensors are less accurate than their more expensive cousins, using a large number of connected sensors simultaneously allows the collection of more localised and frequent data. Advanced data analysis can be used to improve the overall sensor accuracy and provide more valuable data than fixed air pollution monitors.

Although initially developed to be mounted on bikes, future developments will allow the sensor to be carried by pedestrians or mounted to fleet vehicles.

Another challenge is data transmission. In order to reduce the power consumption of the device, the students are avoiding using mobile data and wifi. Instead low power long range networks, such as LoraWAN and Sigfox, are investigated.

Outreach and citizen engagementmanufacturing

The students will make their technology available to the general public so that citizen can monitor the air pollution on their way to work, the school run or during leisure activities. They are running workshops with secondary school children to engage them in the science and technology which makes these sensors possible.

The team

The team consist of ten students with backgrounds in physics, engineering, biotechnology and chemistry.


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