Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Monitor Air Quality on Your Smartphone?


by Debbie Bunch

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) places air-monitoring sensors in communities across the nation, but these sensors are generally few and far between. For example, in San Diego County, which covers an area of 4,000 square miles, only 10 stations monitor air quality. Computer science researchers from the University of California, San Diego, are now working to improve that situation. They have developed a small fleet of portable pollution sensors that allow users to monitor air quality in real time on their smartphones.

Data from the sensors can also be used to estimate air quality throughout the area where the devices are deployed, providing information to everyone, not just those carrying sensors. The sensors detect ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide, and the user interface displays the sensor’s readings on a smartphone using the EPA’s color-coded scale for air quality.

In conducting the study, the investigators tested the devices in 30 users over a four-week period, finding that air quality varied widely, with pollution concentrating in hot spots along main roads and at intersections and other areas. They also found out that time of the day matters—for example, mid-morning levels were low while evening rush hour levels were much higher.

The researchers said they envision a day when the sensors could be built into every smartphone, thus allowing virtually everyone to keep track of the air pollution they encounter every day. They believe that if air pollution could be made more evident to people, support for air pollution control would increase.

Debbie Bunch writes for AARC Times, a news and feature publication of the American Association for Respiratory Care in Irving, TX.

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