airapparentA local workshop has been organised in conjunction with Clean Air Bishopston at which air quality monitoring sensors will be built and kept by the participants.

The workshop takes place on Tuesday 12th June at 7pm at Bishopston Library and is part of a "citizen sensing" initiative by AirApparent, who are committed to using affordable air quality monitoring to increase health awareness.

The devices will then detect concentrations of particulate matter, an insidious component of air pollution, and enable readings to be automatically uploaded via wifi to a web site for public information.

Spaces are limited to six people but organiser Gavin Spittlehouse (of Bishopston Society and Sustainable Bishopston) said "I hope we can run further workshops if there's more demand, but let's see how the first one goes."

Please read on for Gavin's explanation, and apply for a place if after understanding the expectations he sets out you are interested in taking part.

What is it?

It's a "citizen sensing" project designed to help people with an interest in the quality of the air around them to be better informed and to make choices which are better for their health and the health of those around them. The "sensing" part is done with a kit you can build for yourself in a matter of minutes.

There are many different forms of air pollution. This project focuses on particulate matter pollution as it is prevalent, damaging to health and reasonably easy to measure - more on that later!

Rather than reinvent the wheel, we have taken a project started in Germany called Luftdaten and replicated it here in the UK. Luftdaten are currently running about one workshop per week across Germany showing people how to build the kits. In other European countries people are building kits from just the information on the Luftdaten website (as I have done). There are around 2,200 active sensors worldwide today, but only about a dozen in the UK.

The idea of running workshops here in the UK is to handle some of the more tedious and error-prone elements (ordering components, loading their software onto the chips) and also to provide some context from a local perspective.

What is it not?

It's not lab-quality equipment. Not only is such equipment very large and expensive, it also requires a great deal of calibration and maintenance. The team designing the Luftdaten kit have worked with a number of sensors during their evaluation and have chosen the best sensor for price vs performance. They are currently running tests to compare the accuracy of the sensor against high-end equipment and results should be on their website soon.

It's not free. Sadly we can't pay for sensors for everyone, but we won't be making a profit either. There might therefore be some fluctuation in the price of the kits if exchange rates change or I find cheaper sources.

It's not going to last forever. The sensor component has moving parts and is potentially working in a dusty/dirty environment. The manufacturer suggests that it should last for 8,000 hours of continuous use (11 months), but these kits only sample the air periodically so the real lifetime should be far longer. The sensor can be swapped out easily later if it does develop a fault.

What next?

If you want to take part, please email

I currently have enough parts in stock for six kits and shipping times are 3-4 weeks as most of the electronics are produced in China. Slow shipping is much cheaper and greener than air freight, but does require a little more planning ahead!

There is also more information to take a look at on the website https://airapparentuk.wordpress.com/. You can also follow the project on Twitter via @AirApparentUK

What will I walk away with?

You will walk away around £30 lighter in the pocket and in return you will have a sensor which you can connect to your home wifi in minutes and use either indoors (e.g. to monitor the effect of opening windows, vacuuming, cooking, smoking, burning wood) or ideally outdoors (e.g. to monitor pollution from external sources such as traffic, wood burners, barbecues, bonfires, fireworks, local industry).

You will immediately be able to track PM10 and PM2.5 pollution on a live graph as well as temperature and humidity.

For outdoor sensors, if you send your details to Luftdaten you can also view your data on their excellent live world map along with other participants. I'm happy to send that information to them for you once your kit is up and running.

REMEMBER!: the Clean Air Bishopston team is small and purely voluntary, wants to do a lot more to enhance this web site and extend our project, but needs YOU!! Please get in touch with your contributions, comments, suggestions, offers of help, or for some other reason: click here to reach our contact form.
 

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