Air quality sensor network from AirLabs will improve environment in Camden, UK

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A new air quality sensor network will be installed in the London borough of Camden this summer. The network aims to fundamentally transform how we monitor and manage air pollution – to improve public health and wellbeing in urban spaces.

Air quality specialists AirLabs will install 250 advanced AirNode air quality sensors across the Borough, in partnership with Camden Council and The Camden Clean Air Initiative, an air pollution action group.

The network will provide at least 100x more spatial resolution and refresh 60x more regularly than the network of existing air quality reference stations in Camden, capturing and reporting hyper-local air quality data every minute to map the issue in real time. The data will contribute to impactful decision making for all stakeholders interested in improving air quality in the Borough, from councils, individuals and communities to schools, offices, hospitals, retail and hospitality businesses.

The sensors will be deployed rapidly over the coming months and will complement the existing air quality monitoring network. Once launched, the data generated from the network can be used in a myriad of ways, enabling the public to map less polluted routes from A-to-B, feeding into local traffic management policy and providing NHS Trusts and schools with information to help raise awareness of air pollution and protect vulnerable communities. The future possibilities of how the data can be used are vast and AirLabs is aiming to engage with potential partners, clean air groups and councils to explore future collaboration.

The dense network of AirNode sensor devices has been strategically designed to cover the entire borough of Camden, including areas underrepresented by the existing monitoring network and those most vulnerable to air pollution – schools, transport hubs, healthcare facilities and busy intersections. Each device will measure a wide range of air pollutants including airborne particulate matter and toxic gases (nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone (O3)), as well as temperature and humidity, giving the full picture of air quality in an area.

Devices will be optimally spaced to identify and differentiate between different sources of pollution, including whether they are localised sources such as road traffic and wood-burning, or regional sources such as industry. The devices will be installed on lampposts, buildings and other suitable infrastructure and take measurements every minute enabling detection of the smallest of changes.

Air quality is a localized issue, with pollution levels differing significantly from street to street. Even the most advanced air quality networks currently lack a street-level understanding of air quality and gaps in the data mean that communities are missing the complete picture when it comes to the quality of air outside their homes, schools and offices.

“Our ultra-dense network of sensors will provide unprecedented ultra-high definition visibility of local air pollution to allow communities, businesses and stakeholders to make more informed choices to protect the health and well-being of the local population,” says Marc Ottolini, CEO of AirLabs. “There’s no time to wait in tackling the air pollution crisis – we all contribute to air pollution, and we all suffer the health impacts that it causes. This new information system empowers us all to enact data-driven change and become part of the solution. Camden Council understands the importance of empowering the community to tackle this vital issue head on. This network will serve as a blueprint for boroughs across London and cities around the world, using the power of data to inform meaningful action and protect populations from the invisible threat of air pollution.”

Camden Council is at the forefront for driving change on air pollution having been the first to adopt World Health Organization air quality standards and with a host of initiatives already in place is partnering with AirLabs on this innovative project to realise its vision for a healthy and resilient borough.

“Camden’s citizens have made clear that more must be done to tackle the air quality health crisis,” says Camden Councillor Adam Harrison. “Camden Council has committed to meeting the World Health Organization air quality standards as well as stepping up our pollution monitoring and efforts to raise public awareness about the health risks from exposure to air pollution. This project will form an important part of our work to protect public health by building a more detailed understanding of the sources of air pollution throughout Camden and the actions we can all take to reduce pollution and our exposure to it.”

In London alone, air pollution accounts for approximately 4,100 premature deaths every year, worsening the impacts of lung and heart conditions as well as other respiratory illnesses including COVID-19. Killing more people annually than road traffic accidents, poor air quality costs society, businesses and NHS services more than £15bn (US$21bn) a year. Air quality also has a proven impact on educational attainment and overall physical and mental well-being.

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Lauren is acting associate editor for Traffic Technology International and freelance journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint as deputy editor of Traffic Technology International from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum two busy little girls. She is always in demand!