Air quality monitoring equipment has been deployed across Newcastle and Gateshead as part of a project to observe and share data on the environmental performance of the region.
55 AQMesh pods and six conventional air quality monitoring stations are in use as part of the Urban Observatory project, led by Newcastle University, which has a total of 600 sensors monitoring parameters such as air and water quality, noise, weather, energy use and traffic.
The monitoring data is being shared via the Urban Observatory website, through a part of the project dubbed ‘Sense My Street’, which allows residents and communities to commission sensors and locate them on their streets.
The conventional stations employ standard reference methods to measure key air quality parameters such as Nitrogen Dioxide, Ozone, Carbon Monoxide and Particulates.
Additionally the AQMesh pods monitor similar parameters, but are smaller, solar-powered, wireless, web-enabled devices that can be quickly and easily located in most locations within the region as part of the Sense My Street work.
In addition to AQMesh, the sensor network also includes the Fidas ‘Frog’ – a portable, battery powered dust monitor that is able to measure fine particulates.
Phil James, who co-leads the Urban Observatory research, explains: “Cities are complex environments and if we want to develop them sustainably we have to understand how everything interacts.
“By compiling observations and comparing the data, for the first time we are now able to make more informed decisions about designing our infrastructure and cities to work better for people and the environment.
“Through the Sense my Street project, we are able to give communities the power to gather data relevant to issues that are important to them at a very local scale.
“In Heaton, for example, the drive behind the project is to provide evidence for dedicated cycle lanes. The hope is that this would not only reduce the number of cars on the road but also improve children’s health both in terms of reducing air pollution, but also getting them out of the cars and exercising.”
Air quality monitoring equipment is being supplied by the Tewkesbury-based equipment supplier Air Monitors, which is also working to provide a ‘hyperlocal’ network of sensors in London, through a project with the C40 Climate Leadership Group and the Greater London Authority.
Commenting on Air Monitors’ involvement in the Urban Observatory project, Managing Director Jim Mills says: “This is a tremendously exciting project and we are delighted to have been chosen to supply much of the air quality monitoring equipment.
“The conventional stations are delivering precise, accurate data, and the AQMesh pods are providing the portability and flexibility to monitor air quality accurately and reliably in the locations of most interest.
“Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this project is its ability to engage with the community, providing detailed localised air quality information so that both the authorities and citizens can make informed decisions on how to reduce exposure to air pollution. Looking forward, it is clear that work in Newcastle will serve as a model for other cities around the world to follow.”