Workshop Notes: Real-time Nationwide Low-Cost Sensor Network for Air Quality Monitoring

A workshop on “Real-time Nationwide Low-Cost Sensor Network for Air Quality Monitoring” was organised on August 29th, 2018 at the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change, New Delhi. The workshop was meant to give a platform for  sharing of knowledge amongst stakeholders. The intent was to deliberate upon full spectrum of low-cost sensor monitoring of air pollution including policy issues, modelling and remote monitoring of air quality.  (agenda available here)

Key points from the workshop are noted below.

Arun Kumar Mehta, MoEFCC:

Technology will play a big role in improving India’s clean air. Action on air quality needs to be made a budgetary issue since it won’t work without investment.

Data needs to be fit for purpose, we don’t always need (or can get) 100% accurate data. What we need is data we can work with, and if we know what the accuracy levels are, we can work with the low-cost sensors.

Since we have very few stations in rural areas, we need to expand monitoring there, and also expand across India; this can only be achieved through a combination of regulatory-grade and low-cost instruments.

Ajai Mathur, TERI:

We have to understand the importance of data in influencing public opinion. Availability of data made it easier to ask questions and demand action.

Four critical issues with respect to air quality (AQ) monitoring:

  • Coverage, both geographic and for all pollutant species (focusing on other pollutants beyond PM10 and PM2.5)
  • Credibility, precision and accuracy of the devices
  • Transparency, making data available and accessible
  • Cost-effectiveness, credible data at an affordable cost

Ashutosh Sharma, DST:

We need technology both for measurement (and data analysis) of air pollution and control of pollution (at source). Also, we can’t work in silos; integration across sectors is key!

C K Mishra, MoEFCC:

Unless we are able to get data from the entire geography, it is hard to come up with effective solutions. We need a strong knowledge base for country-wide monitoring and this is resource-intensive. In the Ministry, we believe that our work is guided by science and not hearsay. 

Sagnik Dey, IIT-Delhi:

Satellite data is freely available and is easy to access. There is an opportunity to use satellite data to augment decision-making on regulatory monitoring and low-cost sensors. Satellite can guide us in terms of selection of locations for placement of sensors.

Results from two projects funded as part of the DST-Intel Collaborative Research for real-time river water and air quality monitoring were presented at the workshop:

  • The first project was Streaming Analytics over Temporal Variables from Air quality Monitoring (SATVAM) being implemented by IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Bombay and IISc Bangalore. The project aims to collect air quality information sustainably, nation-wide, and at a low cost to allow policy makers and citizens to deploy data-driven control and preventive mechanisms. The focus is on low-cost PM2.5 sensors, ozone (O3), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) sensors; concentrated photovoltaic conversion backed up by Li-ion battery based storage. Together, the idea is to integrate the entire hardware, communication and software stack, from local sensing to distributed analytics, to offer a comprehensive solution. Members of the SATVAM team presented results (in some cases) on different facets of the development and use of low-cost sensors in India.

ATMOS network (PM monitoring) : The network is focused on improving data availability in remote areas, or in places where AQ monitoring isn’t currently in place. At IIT-Bombay, Dr. Rajesh Zele‘s team is working on development of gas sensor nodes (using Alphasense sensors). Current tests with ATMOS monitors show encouraging results (Zheng et al., AMT), and further analyses are currently underway.

  • The other project entitled High Resolution Air Quality Monitoring and Air Pollutant Data Analytics  and is being undertaken by IISc Bangalore and CSIR-CEERIThe project aims to develop and validate a low-cost sensor system coupled with improved techniques of sampling and calibrations to develop the air quality index and identify sources of pollutants with focus on vehicular pollution.

Another interesting project that is currently under development is being led by Dr. Rijurekha Sen at IIT-Delhi. The  idea is to install low-cost sensors on DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System) buses and monitor air pollution around the city. However, there are technical and logistical challenges that the team is currently working to resolve.

Media coverage from the event:

This technology monitor will help your cellphones read air quality instantly 

News regarding the SATVAM project:

 “Government committed to harness science and technology for the preservation of environment”:  Dr. Harsh Vardhan  

Announcement of research projects for DST-Intel Collaborative Research for real-time river water and air quality monitoring

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