Task 4: Wearable Air Pollution Sensors that Would Crowd Source Pollution Hot Spot Data

Task Sponsor:  Engineering New Mexico Resource Network


Air pollution and its effect on health have been subject to intense study in recent years. Long-term exposure to polluted air both indoor and outdoor can have permanent health effects such as  Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), respiratory infections and lung cancer. In addition, air pollution is responsible for millions of premature deaths every year.  According to the WHO 2017 report, indoor air pollution caused 4.3 million deaths globally in 2012. Outdoor air pollution in both cities and rural areas caused 3 million deaths worldwide in 2012. Other estimates for WHO, indicates that 92% of the world population in 2014 lives in places where standards of air quality guidelines are not met.

One of the ways to help fight back the effect of air pollution is using IOT devices.  Having a wearable personal environmental monitor (IOT device) that can measure air quality and send that information in real time to the user will help uses to seek cleaner air by moving off a certain street or avoiding going to a certain place and therefore, reduce the risk of developing health problems due to the pollution.

Problem Statement

Design a monitor/sensor that can measure air quality and track your personal exposure to air pollution via a smartphone app. The data your device collects should be uploaded to a crowdsource air-Quality map. This should help you and others to see where are the areas that are exposed to air pollution the most. By avoiding these areas, one can reduce the risk of developing asthma and long-term lung and heart problems.

Design Considerations

The proposed design must consider the following:

1- The monitor that will measure the air quality should be able to sense and measure major five pollutants:

  • Ground-level Ozone:  Chemicals created from motor vehicle exhaustion, emissions from electric utilities and industrial facilities, chemical solvents, and gas vapors.
  • Carbon Monoxide:  A byproduct of the combustion process, carbon monoxide emissions most commonly come from transportation sources.
  • Sulfur Dioxide:  The combustion of fossil fuels at power plants, and other industrial facilities are responsible for the majority of sulfur dioxide production.
  • Nitrogen Oxides:  Produced by the emissions formed from power plants, on-road vehicles, and off-road vehicles.
  • Particulate Matter:  Also referred to as particle pollution. Nitrates, organic chemicals, soil, metals, sulfates, and dust particles are responsible for creating particulate matter.

2- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates the Air Quality index (AQI) for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.

The amount of pollution in the air is usually measured by its concentration. Therefore, your monitor will sense the air and measure the air pollutant concentration over a specific period. Together, concentration and time should represent the dose of air pollutant containing the five aforementioned pollutants.

3- Smartphone App for either Android or IPhone is acceptable. Via Bluetooth, the measurements are communicated from the device to the app, which maps and graphs the data in real time on your smartphone. At the end of each session, the collected data is sent to a website, where the data is crowdsourced with data from other users to generate heat maps indicating where pollutant concentrations are highest and lowest. You can determine a specific geographical area where your data will be collected (i.e. city in your state). Note: According to the dose of air pollutant, you can have a description for the air quality and a public health advisory.

Example: description →  ”poor air quality”, public health advisory →  “stay inside today ” .

4- Include any applicable state and governmental incentives.

5- Explain the details of your technology used to design the monitor and state the limitations of your proposed device and/app.

6-What are appropriate metrics for evaluating the technology

7- How does this technology compare to other existed methods (i.e. air pollution devices, smartphone apps)

8-How do various operational conditions affect the performance of the technology

9- Provide cost analysis for the device (i.e. construction, implementation, operation, and maintenance)

Bench-Scale Demonstration

During the bench-scale demonstration, your team should plan to present an in depth presentation making the case for your proposed device and app. This includes a complete package presenting technical, and analysis that clearly conveys the proposed approach. Your presentation will be introduced to WERC Design Contest judges as you were presenting this business case to the senior management of a technology company for approval.

Written Report Requirements

The written report should demonstrate your team’s insight into the full scope of the issue that you have chosen and include all aspects of the problem and your proposed solution. The report will be evaluated for quality of writing, organization, clarity, reason, and coherence. Standards for publications in technical journals apply.  In addition to the listed requirements, your report must address in detail the items highlighted in the Problem Statement, Design Considerations, and Evaluation Criteria.

Evaluation Criteria

Each team is advised to read the Participation Guide for a comprehensive understanding of the contest evaluation criteria. Upon your registration, WERC will provide you with a copy of the public Involvement Plan and Participation Guide. Additionally, your proposed design will be evaluated on issues stated in the problem statement as following:

  1. Potential for real life use and implementation.
  2. Originality and Innovativeness.
  3. Reliability.
  4. Cost effective operation.
  5. level of details provided on literature review, presentation, technical analysis, and cost analysis.
  6. Functionality and operability for a larger geographical area.