A new low-cost air monitor created at the University of South Wales (USW) could revolutionise the way authorities react to the challenges caused by pollution.
The device has been designed and developed by the USW team as a way to streamline the collection of data on air quality.
The work is being supported by the Welsh Government, Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) County Borough Council, Respiratory Innovation Wales (RIW), and Wales Institution for Digital information (WIDI).
The USW team has been motivated to develop the monitor because of the influence roadside pollution can have on the public, particularly school pupils walking close to busy traffic when making their way to and from school.
“We have made an effort to ensure the quality of air in a variety of locations can be easily monitored and the data collected made readily available,” said senior lecturer Dr Leshan Uggalla.
“At present air monitors can be very expensive and only available to record data for a certain number of days or weeks before being moved to other locations to take readings. This cost can be prohibitive, so they will only be in place for a short time.
“This new device can be installed with minimum maintenance at a fraction of that cost and the data can be collected and visualised very easily through smart networks and devices.
“This means they can stay in place for a much longer period of time and collect a great deal more information, giving policymakers more details of what may be needed to address air pollution problems. We are planning meetings with other public bodies who may be interested in using the USW-developed monitor.
”Further integration of technologies, such as Artificial intelligence, could provide rapid solutions to minimise the pollution, such as introducing alternative routes for traffic and controlling live speeds on roads to control the levels.”
Welsh Government Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“Tackling air pollution is one of the most complex challenges we face, with no simple solution.
“It’s great to see local government and academia collaborating on such an important issue and developing technology that adds to Wales’ capabilities and understanding in this area.
“I am delighted we have been able to support Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council to start its LoRaWAN journey through Tech Valleys funding.”
Councillor Tina Leyshon, RCT Council Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Corporate Services, said:
“We are proud to be part of such an innovative project, which really opens up the possibility of capturing this vital data easier and in a more cost-effective way.
“It’s great to see such a pioneering piece of equipment being created and developed in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and adds to the fantastic reputation that USW has locally, nationally and internationally.
“We look forward to seeing the technology in action, and helping us to inform future decisions to create a healthier environment for our residents.”
Dr Philip Webb of RIW said:
“As CEO of Respiratory Innovation Wales, I am delighted we have been involved in this project.
“Lived air quality has a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of our population and being able to accurately monitor lived air quality is critical – not only as it enables us to be able to assess the real-time impact of pollution today but also generates data about how we should design and build our houses, towns and cities of the future to support the wellbeing of our future generations.”
Professor Andrew Ware, Director of Research at WIDI and Professor of Computing at USW, said: “Poor air quality shortens lives, creates significant demands on the health service, and spoils the environments in which we live.
“Measuring its quality can help determine what is causing bad quality air. When the cause is known decisions can be made about what interventions are appropriate to try to rectify the situation.”
The project is funded by University’s internal research funding through Higher Education funding Council Wales (HEFCW).