Updated: May 25, 2022
Do you want to find out more about air pollution, where it’s coming from and how it’s affecting your community? Are you thinking about introducing a network of air quality monitors in your city? A task which could appear straight forward, there are a number of elements to take into consideration to ensure you get the most from your investment before you purchase, and kick start your project.
Establish the Purpose of Your Project
The first step to any air quality monitoring project is to establish its purpose. Having a clear reason for monitoring will vastly improve the success of your project. Some projects might be used to:
Establish current air quality levels – through baseline monitoring, you may want to understand the current levels of air pollution in your area. This type of monitoring will support planning applications and help to inform future decisions about what may be required in your region to improve air pollution.
Understand the public health impact and potential solutions - a network of monitors can help you identify areas in your city that might benefit from schemes such as Clean Air Zones or Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. With air quality data, you can also evaluate whether such strategies have been effective at improving local concentrations.
Evaluate the effectiveness of new technology – many technologies promise to reduce or clean pollutants from the air. Monitoring air quality levels prior to and post deployment of these technologies can help assure that they are having a positive impact.
Validate a predictive pollution model –air quality models need to be validated with monitoring to help ensure that the predictions are accurate and representative of real-life conditions.
Create an innovative and integrated solution – monitoring data can be used to control connected systems in real-time, such as intelligent traffic signals and HVAC systems.
Determining the purpose of your monitoring project helps you decide on what you want to achieve. Following this, you will be better informed to decide the species of air pollutants and location you want to assess, how many monitors and the service level you’re likely to need to meet the projects aims. You can start to weigh up the costs against your budget and decide on an appropriate air quality monitoring plan that can provide you with the necessary data to help meet your goals. It’s important to keep in mind that you need quality, reliable hardware, and data and sometimes, cheap isn’t necessarily better.
Configure your Zephyr® Network
Once you’ve established the purpose of your air quality monitoring network and how many units you need to reach your project aims, the next step is to configure your Zephyr® by choosing a cartridge type, service level, power option and deciding the length of your project and where to install your units.
To kick off configuration, you should select a cartridge that will deliver the measurements for your chosen air pollutant species. These options include a range of standard cartridges and enhanced cartridges, which offer measurements for a variety of pollutant species including nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitric oxide (NO), particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, PM10), carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and others. You can find out more about the choices and species available by downloading the Zephyr® specification sheet.
You’ll also need to take into consideration how long you want your project to last, whether you’re using monitoring alongside modelling, or choosing add-ons. Deciding this will allow you to be better informed when it comes to your subscription, overall costs and to see if it fits within your budgets. Subscriptions start at 12 months and increase in 12 month increments up to 6 years, covering short and long-term projects.
In addition, you have the option to decide whether you’re going to use a hybrid approach to understanding air quality. This compromises of Zephyr® measurements used alongside MappAir® modelling, which delivers an understanding about air pollution levels at areas where monitors haven’t been deployed. Using a blend of monitoring and modelling can provide long-term, granular insight into air pollution and more tailored response plans.
What’s more, EarthSense’s service has a range of optional add-ons to provide detailed insights and a hassle-free experience. This includes fieldwork whereby Field Engineers will deploy, maintain, and decommission your Zephyrs for an additional cost, and reporting which provides automated air quality reports through MyAir®. Decide whether you’d benefit from or have budget for a hybrid network or extras throughout the duration of your project.
Next, you’ll need to determine where you should install each of your pollution monitors. Whilst you do this, you’ll need to ensure that you’re able to position each monitor in a location that provides an accurate depiction of the air quality environment you require. Zephyrs need to be mounted at least 2.5 meters to 3 meters in height from the ground and shouldn’t be shielded by any obstructions, so you will need to identify clear, unsheltered locations (like building façades or lighting columns) at the area that you want to investigate. You’ll also want to keep in mind that depending on where you want to install, you may need to get approval from your local council, so check what the guidance is for installations in your area.
You might also want to use existing technology or datasets (such as CAMS data) or other types of air quality monitors (like diffusion tubes) to help inform the location of your monitors. With this, you can use existing pollution data to give an indication of areas that are experiencing high levels of pollution. The benefit of using an indicative sensor-based monitoring network alongside existing or averaged datasets is that it provides a more localised and real-time understanding of how air quality is behaving, enabling prompt reaction for improving levels and evidencing how best to mitigate unsafe conditions.
Following decisions about the location, you’ll then be able to weigh up how you want to power your air quality monitor – if it’s placed in a remote location, you may want to consider solar power. Solar panels need sunlight for proper operation and placing the panel in a sheltered area (such as underneath trees) may have an impact on your measurements. There’s also the option to power your unit with battery power, which lasts between 1 – 7 days (depending on sampling mode and cartridge types). With this option you’ll need to ensure that you’re able to charge your unit, either at the deployment location or by taking it down and re-charging. However, we’d be more inclined to recommend battery power for mobile applications.
Once you’ve configured your Zephyr® monitoring network, length of subscription, and decided on installation locations, you can go ahead and request the number of necessary monitors from EarthSense. Delivery takes up to 4 weeks depending where in the world you’re located, and you can either install units yourself or one of EarthSense’s engineers will deploy these for you as part of the optional add-on service.
Service and Maintenance for your Zephyrs
Due to air quality monitoring networks typically having a large number of monitors, you need to ensure that each unit is working to the best of its ability throughout the duration of your project. This ensures you’re provided with accurate, quality data to depict the pollution environment and helps you to reach your project goals. To maintain your Zephyr® monitors, EarthSense offer an in-house service.
Here’s what’s available within the air quality service:
1. Continuous Monitoring of Your Zephyr®
To ensure there’s no loss in data quality throughout the duration of your pollution monitoring projects, EarthSense’s in-house data scientists keep on top of the performance of your Zephyr® air quality monitor. Doing this makes certain that you can have confidence in using your measured data for your project, be it baseline monitoring, monitoring traffic emissions or evidencing how well your mitigation strategies are working.
For continuous provision of the best possible air quality measurements, EarthSense’s in-house data scientists also monitor sensor degradation and will notify you when your units need to be recalibrated or need cartridge replacements throughout your subscription.
Taking away the overhead of maintaining your Zephyr®, EarthSense provide a fieldwork offering for an additional cost. Fieldwork Engineers will keep on top of your hardware for you, from deployment to cartridge swaps and cleaning solar panels to decommissioning your units at the end of your subscription.
3. In-house Technical Support
The support team provides you with comprehensive service levels and technical assistance when it comes to any help regarding your Zephyr® air quality monitors. Whether you’re out in the field and need help with deployment or need assistance with setting up your Zephyr® and how to receive air quality data, the support team are on hand via phone or email. There are also various help guides and videos available from EarthSense that will help you understand how to use, set up and install your Zephyr®.
4. Data Access
Access to air quality measurements is available through EarthSense’s MyAir® web application. This is where your Zephyr® data can be further analysed, downloaded, or viewed alongside MappAir® modelling data for added context to your measurements. Zephyr® data can also be integrated with third party systems via Application Programming Interface (API).
The ongoing servicing and maintenance options, will ensure that your Zephyr® monitoring network performs up to standard, allowing you to have confidence in obtaining data and understanding and mitigating against unsafe air.
Access and Understand your Air Quality Data using MyAir® and APIs
Your Zephyr® is deployed and taking measurements so now it’s time to access and review the data for insights into the air quality. There are two ways in which data can be accessed; either through the EarthSense web app, MyAir® or via an Application Programming Interface (API).
When Zephyr® monitors take measurements of ambient air, concentrations are sent to MyAir® via a GSM connection. The MyAir® web app allows you to view, analyse, and download measured Zephyr® data, and provides a view of historic concentrations for your chosen species. Also available for UK Zephyr® users is MappAir® modelled data for the UK, and users outside of the UK can request a global MappAir® layer.
You will have received login details to MyAir® in a Welcome Email along with a link to Zephyr® literature and help guides. Once you’ve logged into MyAir®, you’ll be welcomed with a map and coloured icons which indicate the locations at which your monitors have been deployed. The colour of the icon helps you quickly identify current air quality levels, and you can adjust the colour scale to tailor which air quality guidelines you want to measure against, allowing you to quickly understand pollution levels.
Measured data is a great start to understanding localised air quality but additional features in MyAir® provide added context to the data, enabling users to identify trends and sources that help build a bigger picture of pollution. Some of the exclusive MyAir® features include:
Data tab – View measured Zephyr® data to learn how pollution behaves and decide on when is best to implement mitigation strategies by customising time periods and time averaging for your selected species. This provides for a further look into air pollution spikes, and short- and long-term trends.
MappAir® model overlay – Identify pollution concentrations across the UK for nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter. The model overlay provides data for locations where Zephyr® monitors are not deployed, giving insight into how pollution moves at a regional level.
Historic and predicted air quality levels – With the MappAir® overlay on, click on any area of interest, and receive a value for near real time concentrations as well as an interrogatable graph for historic and up to 3-day pollution forecasts.
Source apportionment – Identify where PM2.5 is coming from and how it’s affecting air quality in your area by selecting the drop-down menu. Receive a breakdown of various pollution sources, including transport, agriculture, waste and more, which are presented as a layer on the map.
Pollution rose – Provides you with information about wind speed and direction to help understand the direction that gases and particulates are likely to be travelling.
Application Programming Interface (API)
Alternatively, you can access your Zephyr® measurements through your chosen third-party system by integrating your air quality data into various platforms via an API, from traffic management systems and urban mobility management platforms to urban planning models and mobile phone applications.
To do this, you’ll receive a link to our Zephyr® API which provides you with step-by-step instructions about how to incorporate Zephyr® data into the system. Integrating Zephyr® measurements means that air quality data will be available to view alongside existing datasets, allowing you to understand how one factor is affecting the other for making informed response decisions.
Using your Data
Once you’ve logged into MyAir® or integrated your Zephyr® data into a third-party system, you can start to use the data for improving air pollution concentrations. Here’s some suggestions on how you can use your data:
If you’re using your network to highlight areas that regularly become pollution hotspots and the times at which these arise, you can view and analyse your Zephyr® data and use the insights to find where and when to implement your mitigation strategies. These might be timed road closures, switching traffic light sequencing, or even changing the road infrastructure by implementing cycle lanes to encourage active travel.
For baseline monitoring projects, measured Zephyr® data is stored in MyAir® and can be accessed at a later period. Once you’ve collated air quality data for an appropriate time, compare baseline data with data from an intervention period and use this to identify the success of mitigation strategies.
If you’ve integrated air quality measurements with a traffic management system, you can view live traffic counts alongside Zephyr® measurements and see how an increase in traffic has an impact on the levels of NO2 and PM2.5 along main roads across your city. With an integrated air quality dataset, you can make reactive, strategic traffic management decisions for minimising pollution concentrations as soon as it starts to arise.
The quality of the air is crucial for the safety of human and environmental health – both of which we can’t live without. Air pollution is largely invisible and can cause challenges when trying to demonstrate there is a problem but through data, we can visualise the invisible and businesses can start to take steps in improving conditions for the environment.
If you would like to learn more about how EarthSense can help you measure, monitor, and mitigate air quality with a Zephyr® network, please get in touch: www.earthsense.co.uk/contact