Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have developed a low-cost Internet of Things (IoT)-based mobile air pollution monitoring framework that can be mounted on buses, cars and two-wheelers to gather spatio-temporal air quality data. Named as ‘Project Kaatru’ (air in Tamil), it leverages IoT, big data and data science to provide pan-India hyperlocal air quality map, the exposure assessment for each Indian citizen, and data driven solutions for policy, intervention and mitigation strategies.
“Our affordable IoT based mobile monitoring network, coupled with data science principles offers unprecedented advantage in gathering hyperlocal insights into air quality,” said Prof Raghunathan Rengaswamy, Faculty, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras, in a press statement.
“It is the only viable option at present, capable of offering high spatio-temporal awareness that could allow for informed mitigation and policy decisions. Government policy changes and smart city planning would benefit enormously from the use of mobile air quality trackers,” he explained.
Air pollution in India is a pressing environmental issue that poses significant health risks and impacts the quality of life for millions of people. The country experiences high levels of pollution due to a combination of factors, including industrial emissions, vehicular pollution, agricultural practices, and solid waste burning. Cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata often face severe air pollution episodes, contributing to respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and other health complications.
Traditionally, ambient air quality is measured in monitoring stations and reported as ‘Air Quality Index’ (AQI). Since these stations are at fixed locations, they only measure the air quality of a small geographic area. Air pollution is a transboundary issue and setting up more stations isn’t feasible due to high costs. But sustained efforts and collaborative action at various levels are necessary to effectively tackle the complex issue of air pollution in India.
So the new IoT-based mobile air pollution monitoring technology can map an entire city at high resolution for the cost of a single reference monitoring station. The mobile air quality sensors have extensive usage in both personal and public health initiatives.
“Personal monitoring devices can help people know the extent of pollution in their neighbourhood so that they can take protective measures. Traffic can be rerouted if local pollution levels are known,” said Prof Rengaswamy. The vehicle mounted devices are also capable of measuring multiple parameters, ranging from particulate matter (PM)1, PM2.5, PM10 and gases such as nitric oxide (NOx) and sulphur oxide (SOx). In addition to pollutants, the device can also assess road roughness, potholes and ultraviolet index among others.