One year on… Croydon’s Internet of Things air quality project

AirPublic creates mobile sensor networks to produce air quality data. Here's an update on their work with Croydon Council to monitor emissions from construction sites.

Croydon Council has an ambitious programme to bring smart city innovation to Croydon. Over the past year, we at AirPublic have been contributing our air quality initiatives, working with the council to trial the borough’s LoRaWan network and develop its Internet of Things (IoT).

In case you’re wondering, LoRaWAN is one of a number of new technologies available to provide low power wide area wireless network (LPWAN) connectivity for IoT devices. Digital Catapult has been rolling out LoRa connectivity across London with the aim of stimulating innovation, and Croydon is an ideal test bed for keen start-ups to come and trial their ideas.

During this trial, we deployed air quality sensors across a number of key construction sites across Croydon town centre. The data we gather from these supports the implementation of innovative sustainable construction measures, such as restricted timings for vehicles moving on and off site and limitations on types of vehicles used. These measures are being trialled in Croydon and may in turn be rolled out across London.

Using our low-cost IoT air pollution monitors, AirPublic can produce much more granular data and give insights to inform decision making. Local authority officers are also connected to the AirPublic dashboard, through which they are able to access and manipulate the data themselves.

There were a few teething problems connecting with the LoRa network. In particular, we discovered that when you integrate the LoRa transmitter into your hardware and test it, you need to do tests at a number of distances to check that the way you have installed doesn’t reduce transmission range. You will also need to consider the size and frequency of your data packages, and take into consideration the ‘fair use’ policy which limits the amount of airtime for any particular device.

A screenshot of the Airpublic dashboard showing levels of pollution by areaThrough collaborative efforts, all the challenges were overcome and have led to successful data gathering over an extended period. The LoRa network has also shown itself to be useful – mainly in that it can save us money by reducing data transmission costs.

We were determined throughout the process to not just produce data, but insights. Collaboration between council officers and the AirPublic team supported the initial placement of the devices, and meetings to interrogate the findings have been well attended on both sides. For example, our data has shown that pollution outside the hoardings of one site is regularly lower than monitoring inside the hoardings. This appears to indicate that this mitigation method is effective in protecting the public from some of the construction site emissions. Other insights are set to support the enforcement of the sustainable construction measures.

We’re excited for the prospect that Croydon can extend its smart city capabilities and hope we can continue to support the council to engage many types of stakeholders in changing their behaviour and improving the air pollution in their borough.

1 thought on “One year on… Croydon’s Internet of Things air quality project”

Mark Stanley 21st January 2020 at 9:48 am

Nice article Hannah!
So glad to see your persistence has paid off and your project is providing good data and valuable insights.
Congratulations to AirPublic and Croydon 🙂

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