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Environmental and Air Quality Sensors

Environmental and air quality sensors are becoming ever smaller and less expensive. This has made it possible for ordinary people to set-up their own sensors to monitor environmental quality and share this data over the Internet.

One criticism of these community-based sensors is that data quality is not as high as for official sensors. While this may be true, there is also much to learn from these sensors. For example they can show where more detailed evaluations are necessary and be used to identify changes to environmental conditions. It’s also true that the quality of these sensors is improving rapidly. (For more see: Can we rely on DIY air pollution sensors?)

Examples of Environmental and Air Quality Sensors

Birdhouse Air Quality Monitor

Joris Lam has developed a neat idea called Tree Wi-Fi that combines an air quality sensor with a display showing whether air quality is good or bad, and it provides free wifi if the air is good. Read more about the project at: Amsterdam birdhouses distribute free Wi-Fi when air pollution levels are down in Mother Nature Network. HT Next City.


The CleanSpace Tag is a portable air pollution sensor that enables people to track their personal pollution exposure and what they are actually breathing in, in real-time. The tag connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth and sends carbon monoxide levels to the CleanSpace app. The air quality data is then anonymised, aggregated and combined with data from all the other Tags across the UK.

Citizen Sense

Citizen Sense is a project using portable air quality monitors to monitor pollution levels. The Citizen Sense website is an excellent source of information on the use of sensors for environmental monitoring. An important finding from the Citizen Sense project is that simply providing sensors is not sufficient for increasing citizen engagement and activity. More from the Citizen Sense website.

Air Quality Egg

The Air Quality Egg is a sensor system designed to allow anyone to collect very high resolution readings of NO2 and CO concentrations outside of their home. These two gases are the most indicative elements related to urban air pollution that are sense-able by inexpensive, DIY sensors.

Air Quality Egg also supports a community-led air quality sensing network that gives people a way to participate in the conversation about air quality.

Smart Citizen Sensor

The Smart Sensor is an environmental data sensor that collects data on: air composition (CO and NO2), temperature, light intensity, sound levels, and humidity.

The crowdsourced data is available at:  … the figure on the left illustrates data from a sensor in Barcelona.

Here’s a link to my smart citizen sensor in Neubau Vienna.

Bicycling mural by Nathalie Hunter, Antwerp BE

Bike mural at Antwerp Brasserie De Pelgram (great food & drink) by Nathalie Hunter.

Mobile Air Quality

Several cities are experimenting with adding sensors to bikes or buses, some examples:

References: Environmental and Air Quality Sensors

Can we rely on DIY air pollution sensors? an article by Richard E. Peltier, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; published in The Conversation, 2 December 2016. This is a good summary of the issue and presents recommendations.

Can you crowdsource water quality data? an article by Pratibha Mistry on The World Bank’s Water Blog (13 December 2016) … summarises some recent academic research and provides a good overview of issues surrounding sensor data collected by residents.

Blog Posts: Environmental and Air Quality Sensors

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