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I would like to measure the air quality related to road traffic in a city for an IoT application.

The European Environmental Agency has defined quality indicators (good, bad, etc) according to the concentration of some gases in the air such as CO, NOx etc. I want to measure the concentration in the air of these gases.

I have come around the Waspmote board by Libellium which produces also some sensors boards. However the gas sensors, particularly the calibrated ones are really expensive. Does anyone know a more affordable solution or integrated product to measure air quality?

  • A few weeks ago I got an email that smartcitizen.me is starting up again. See their forum for details about the new hardware: forum.smartcitizen.me/t/… I have not used it (but PM 2.5 seems insufficient for regular outdoor use). – Arjan May 11 '18 at 18:31
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I think it's non-existent today.

I work at a Dutch municipality and, though things might have changed now, in December 2017 our environmental department concluded that even semi-professional gas or dust sensors were just not good enough to determine the low levels needed for outdoor measurements. (Including everything Libelium offered at that time for CO, NOx and particle matter.)

It's not my cup of tea, but the reasoning of our environmental department:

  • For particle matter Libelium claimed to count PM 1. But outdoor measurements would only make sense for PM 0.1 (particles smaller than 0.1 micrometer). Also, the weight of the counted particles is not a constant, so converting the counts into some μg/m3 value, to compare to government regulations, is difficult if not impossible.

  • For NO2 Libelium claimed an accuracy of 0.1 ppm (parts per million) in ideal conditions. With 1 pbb (parts per billion) being equal to about 1.88 μg/m3, a claimed accuracy of 0.1 ppm = 100 ppb = about 188 μg/m3. But outdoor hourly averages of NO2 concentrations vary between 1 μg/m3 and 60 μg/m3, and the Dutch government indicators define an upper limit for the annual average of 40 μg/m3. So, a claimed accuracy of 188 μg/m3 does not suffice.

  • Any other measurements but (ultra) fine dust and NO2 were deemed not interesting for air quality.

Of course, combining a lot of low-cost measurements and comparing those to the results of (very expensive) professional measurements might still yield useful indicators.

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    Did your municipality produced any public document about this conclusions? Do you know if they might work as threshold alarms at least(when they exceed the legal limit for example)? – Francesco Boi May 11 '18 at 14:27
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    @Francesco, unfortunately they did not, but I edited my answer to add the reasoning I found in an email. – Arjan May 11 '18 at 14:40
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    (I removed a link to a presentation from the TTN LoRaWAN Conference in early 2018, where Joost Wesseling of the Dutch RIVM presented about measuring huge pollutions. Nice, but not related. At 4'37 some graphs of some sensors can be seen, but I'm sure you'll find similar results elsewhere on the internet.) – Arjan May 11 '18 at 14:56
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    Sorry it came to my mind another question. Do you know the devices Waspmote Plug & Sense! by Libelium again? I am not sure but I think they use the same sensors: aren't they professional and precise devices? – Francesco Boi May 11 '18 at 17:10
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    Mid 2016, we used Waspmote PRO v1.2 Plug & Sense, Smart Environment, with the "regular" Gas Sensor Board v2.0. These were terrible, but I hope things have changed. It did not even give reliable temperature readings (taking subsequent samples would show large differences), but such can hardly be caused by poor sensors? For the gas sensors, many variables needed to be set, for which our supplier was just told "it depends of the concentration you are going to measure". Read through that forum before ordering anything... – Arjan May 11 '18 at 17:34
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Adafruit has a Volatile Organic Componds (VOC) / CO2 sensor built to monitor air quality (https://www.adafruit.com/product/3566 $19.95 USD) which sounds like would fit your requirements. Its not as fancy as the other ones you are looking at, but the price is right. Adafruit does have a number of gas sensors to choose from: https://www.adafruit.com/category/897

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    It seems more like for indoor applications. – Francesco Boi May 11 '18 at 13:24
  • @FrancescoBoi Yes, they are. I have mine outside in my Weather sensors box, and they work just fine. Its a trade off: cheaper/less weather proof, weather proof/more expensive ;) – JD Allen May 11 '18 at 15:54
  • sparkfun has that sensor too. sparkfun.com/products/14193 – Sam May 11 '18 at 16:08
  • If I understand correctly, the difference between indoor and outdoor is about the lowest levels the sensors can or should measure. Indoor levels are much higher, hence much easier to detect reliably. For outdoor use, much more sensitive sensors are needed? – Arjan May 11 '18 at 16:38

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