Technology is key to the future of Local Air Quality Management
In the following article, Air Monitors MD Jim Mills points to the opportunities presented by new technologies. He explains how many of the monitoring objectives, including cost reduction, can be met by deploying the latest developments in instrument, data management and communications technologies. As a result, it is now possible to reduce both the capital and operational costs of monitoring, whilst improving data capture rates and both the quality and availability of data.
The value of data is highest when it is new, so with the benefit of the latest cloud-based data management and communications technologies, it is now possible to view data in near real-time. This brings a number of important additional benefits because the creation of a live communication pathway provides air quality management professionals with the ability to continually assess instrument status, and thereby to implement proactive service regimes that avoid costly emergency call-outs.
The ‘problem’ with new technology is that it usually requires extra capital, so the launch by Air Monitors of ‘AQWeb’ is a major development because it provides access to new technology without any capital cost. Instead, users are provided with a data gateway, software and communications package at no capital cost and access to the data is provided as part of a service contract. Many local authorities across the UK have already signed up to AQWeb and now enjoy the benefits of live data and improved data quality and capture rates.
New technology – gaseous pollutants
The cost of new monitoring sites need not be preclusive as new technology makes it possible to monitor more locations at a fraction of the cost of traditional stations. In the past, measurement data has been supplemented by modelling but this can lead to significant inaccuracies. The launch of AQMesh is therefore enormously significant; by dramatically lowering the capital and operational costs of monitoring, these new low-cost monitors measure air quality at the point of use – in the street, outside the shop, next to the bus station, by the school… anywhere. AQMesh 'pods' are completely wireless, using battery power and GPRS communications to transmit data for the five main air polluting gases to 'the cloud' where sophisticated data management generates highly accurate readings as well as monitoring hardware performance. AQMesh pods will not replace all traditional monitors, but they will decrease the cost of monitoring whilst radically improving the availability of monitoring data, especially in urban areas where air quality varies from street to street.
New technology – particulate pollutants
The latest TEOM FDMS instruments have met the MCERTS performance standards and the EU Equivalence designation criteria (Defra and MCERTS approval) for both PM2.5 and PM10. The existing TEOM FDMS models (1400 series) used in the AURN and in many local authority sites also continue to enjoy full equivalence designation and if maintained correctly will continue to offer good service for years to come. However those considering replacement or buying new monitoring equipment now have the ability to choose these new lower cost models (1405 series) with the highest level of certification of any PM monitor currently on the market.
For those that need to measure both fine and coarse particulates simultaneously, a dichotomous format version of the 1405 is available (1405-DF) for continuous monitoring of both PM2.5 and PM10. This provides a substantial reduction in cost, power usage and space requirement in comparison with two individual instruments.
Air Monitors has also launched a new ambient dust monitoring technology that will complement existing PM monitoring technology. The FIDAS (Fine Dust Analysis System) offers additional information on both particle size distribution from 0.18 – 18 microns and the number of particles in each size range. It also provides continuous real-time simultaneous mass concentration measurements of TSP, PM1, PM2.5 and PM10. This will provide new highly valuable information to inform air quality management strategies. Importantly, FIDAS runs on low power and without air conditioning and uses no consumables; all of which combine to lower running costs.
Extending the working life of existing technology
With growing pressure on costs, local authorities are naturally looking to extend the working lives of their existing equipment, so it is important for service companies to stock manufacturers’ spares and consumables, and to employ staff with high levels of experience. As the founder of ETI (in 1992) and Monitor Europe (in 1998), Jim Mills currently employs many of the engineers and other technical staff that were previously with ETI and Monitor Europe. The unparalleled experience of the Air Monitors service team combined with full access to all manufacturers’ spares ensures that the stations serviced by Air Monitors enjoy very high data capture rates and low maintenance costs.
It is extremely worrying that 60 years after the Great Smog of London, thousands are still dying prematurely as a direct result of air pollution. Effective air quality monitoring is therefore essential if we are to tackle this problem, and the current debate should focus on how best to take advantage of the opportunities that new technologies present.
Clearly, less monitoring would lower costs, but so would the introduction of new technologies and practices, without reducing our commitment to address the health problems resulting from air pollution.
For more information on the monitoring technologies that can help visit www.airmonitors.co.uk