TL;DR — The concept of Air Quality Management 2.0 drives home the importance of collaborative partnerships between stakeholders — including the effective use of air quality monitoring technologies. Air quality monitoring technology forms the basis on which key data insights can be captured and cross-stakeholder initiatives can be built. However, technology alone is not enough — it must be used effectively in order to bring about meaningful change. New technology like low-cost air quality sensors can help bridge the gap between the often sparse data collection of regulatory-grade sensors and the need for real-time, high-resolution data.

This blog is part of a series focusing on the concept of Air Quality Management 2.0, which aims to link together key stakeholders, from communities to industries, in the work to create sustainable air quality management programs and improve public health when it comes to the negative impacts of air pollution. Read our white paper on Air Quality Management 2.0 here.

How do we monitor and control air pollution?

A number of air quality monitoring technologies exist, with two main categories being reference-grade monitors like FRMs and FEMs and indicative monitoring equipment like low-cost air quality sensors.

Reference-grade monitors

Federal reference method (FRM) and federal equivalent method (FEM) monitoring technologies have strict standards for measurement performance and are generally used by regulatory bodies such as the US EPA.

Because of their high data quality, FRM and FEM technologies are generally used as the gold standard against which other monitoring technologies can be compared.

While these technologies tend to have very high data quality, there are some drawbacks, including their high cost and lack of siting flexibility, which means they tend to be sited as part of a regional strategy rather than placed at the neighborhood level.

Low-cost sensors

Low-cost sensors can provide more comprehensive coverage in a given region due to their lower price tag, more flexible siting, and scalability, though not all low-cost sensors are created equal when it comes to their data quality.

Because of this, it is important that low-cost sensors are collocated and calibrated alongside reference-grade monitors to ensure data accuracy.

To learn more about the different air quality monitoring technologies that exist, read our blog here.

Why air pollution measurement technologies play a major role in effective air quality management

Air quality monitoring technology is highly important because it is what allows for data insights to be captured and for data-driven decisions to be made to reduce air pollution.

Effective air quality management requires accurate, representative monitoring data.”

— Sean Wihera

However, effective use of technology is not a given.

Technology alone is not enough; implementation matters when it comes to using new technologies effectively and accurately.

Intentionally designed networks and collaboration between cities and technology partners are key for successful implementation.”

— Sean Wihera

Ineffective, inaccurate, or inefficient use of monitoring technologies will not help to solve air quality issues.

How can an improvement in technology reduce air pollution?

More recently developed monitoring technologies, such as low-cost sensors, provide more real-time, local air quality data that helps to paint a more complete picture of air quality in a given area.

Like with all technologies, air quality measurement equipment must be leveraged in an effective way with steps taken to ensure the data they collect is accurate. Sensor siting must also be carried out in an intentional, well-informed way to ensure that the network design suits the goals of the monitoring network

Learn more about the various uses of low-cost sensors and NSIM in our blog here.

The importance of partnership between technologies and other stakeholders

Air Quality Management 2.0 emphasizes the importance of partnership across stakeholder groups in order to come to a unified approach to effective air quality monitoring.

Technology providers and regulators can work hand-in-hand to ensure that the monitoring technology captures accurate data by following rigorous collocation and calibration standards, and by collaborating to create data quality objectives that serve as guidelines for technology providers.

When it comes to partnerships with community groups, it is important to instill confidence in new technologies or data streams that are being used — whether alone or in hybrid networks with existing reference-grade monitors — to ensure that this data is useful and relevant to communities and other stakeholders.

An example of effective technology use: Breathe London

Breathe London’s air quality monitoring network stands as a prime example of the effective integration of low-cost sensor and reference-grade monitoring technologies in one cohesive network.

Through work with the Greater London Authority and Imperial College London, the Breathe London network deployed over 450 low-cost sensors throughout the city of London to support the city’s existing reference-grade monitoring network — adding high-resolution, real-time data to support a more complete picture of air quality.

The network collects more neighborhood-level data to help support initiatives to protect public health and reduce the negative impacts of air pollution on Londoners.

To learn more about the work of Breathe London, read our customer story here.

Air quality measurement technology as a central part of effective air quality management

Stakeholders, such as communities, regulators, and analysts can engage with the various types of air quality monitoring technologies that exist in order to design an effective air quality monitoring network.

Download the Air Quality Management 2.0 white paper here to learn more about the importance of engaging key stakeholders in partnership for meaningful air quality improvement, including communities, regulators, analysts, and technologies.

Interested in measuring air quality for cleaner air and a healthier climate? Get in touch with our team to learn more about our Sensing-as-a-Service solution for governments, businesses, and community organizations, using our Clarity Node-S monitors and Modules.