Mean Green IoT: Monitor and Track Pollutants with Dynamic Networks

Posted by on May 17, 2018 5:00:00 AM Carmi Brandis  
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As the world works toward a greener future, new tools are needed to study the impact humans have on the environment. For most urban areas, the annual carbon footprint of a single city can range from “40 to 80 metric tons of carbon dioxide” according to Business Insider. Fortunately, environmental sensor technologies have greatly improved in recent years, and we now are able to study our carbon footprint and impact in ways we could only dream of a decade ago. Leveraging the Internet of Things to connect sensors across a city or geographic region to a single network could mean even more information for scientists, meteorologists, and ecologists everywhere.

Creating Dynamic Networks that Fit Your Study

Data needs drive network choices for any IoT program, and environmental activist groups, government agencies, and universities looking to establish a comprehensive study of an area’s environmental health will need to consider how much information their network will transmit at any given time. If the study is asking simple yes/no questions, then a low-power-wide-area (LPWA) network may be appropriate for the team’s data needs. For instance, an air quality monitor might be set to detect levels of carbon dioxide over a certain amount. The network could query this sensor to determine whether air levels were above or below this set threshold.

However, more complex quantitative research aimed at studying interactions between the environment and pollutants likely will require a cellular platform. Like LPWA networks, cellular networks can provide coverage for a large geographic area, spanning an entire city if needed. However, cellular networks are capable of much faster and higher quality data transmission, providing up-to-the-second updates from linked sensors. Cellular networks also provide optimum flexibility and could be particularly useful if sensors are being used to trace specific sources of pollution. Ultimately, the flexibility of cellular connections means that hundreds of sensors can be added to the network without any strain or lag time to the network that otherwise could be seen with Wi-Fi connections.

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IoT Technology for Environmental Applications: Air Quality, Water Quality, and Beyond

So, what could scientists study with an IoT network? Air quality monitoring is one potential application. Air quality sensors designed to alert the network when certain particulate matter and pollutants are present could be deployed throughout a city to provide local meteorologists, physicians, and universities with clearer data about local health risks for those with asthma and other pulmonary conditions. Information would be transmitted directly from the sensors to a cloud-based mapping app accessible to any participating institution.

The Atlantic reports that water quality is poor in more than half of our U.S. rivers and waterways. With this in mind, wetland ecologists could use IoT to study the health of local waterways in more detail, sending out buoys with water quality sensors attached. A range of sensors could be deployed for this purpose, testing everything from the growth of toxic bacterial blooms to chemical spills and dumping, pH values, nitrates, and even mineral levels. Linked with a SIM card, these sensors then could communicate their findings back to the network, again integrating with cloud-based maps to provide a real-time view of pollution levels.

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For cities interested in committing to green policies, SIM card-linked sensors could be added to the city’s civil fleet and public transportation options to track gas use, exhaust, and even mileage in and around town. Over time, this information could help the city invest in cleaner transportation options and get a better sense of a city government’s contribution to overall pollution levels.

Pollution monitoring can keep a city on track toward green goals and environmentally sound planning in the long run while also raising safety standards for a city in the present. For example, IoT monitoring allows local forecasters to provide better warnings for days with high-pollution levels while also allowing cities to act faster in response to industrial plant leaks, water contaminants, and other threats to human life. In response to a plant leak, contaminant-sensitive sensors could communicate with safety equipment on the network via machine-to-machine (M2M) connections to trigger plant shutdowns, enhanced filtration, or other safety measures. IoT ultimately enables cities and environmental advocacy groups to become more than mere bystanders in the fight for a clean environment.

Why Aeris?

Aeris is a dynamic and growing company committed to building and supporting reliable IoT networks. We will work closely with your IT team to identify which type of network will be the best fit for your environmental research needs and assist you in identifying any monitoring technologies needed for the project. We care about the future and about the planet, and we care about creating network solutions that customers can rely on. Ready to set up your IoT network? Contact us today.

Topics: environmental controls, environment, air monitor, water sensors, Cellular connection