The future of air pollution monitoring is community-driven - Image by Mohamed Hassan on Pixabay Air pollution is the single most damaging environmental health risk in the world. The WHO estimates that around 4.2 million people die prematurely every year because of ambient exposure to pollutants. The primary cause of worldwide air pollution is fossil fuel emissions. Nearly one in five deaths are attributable to pollution from industries and technologies reliant on coal and crude oil as energy sources.

The recent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow put further pressure on world leaders to act on the dangerous effects of fossil fuel consumption. These shocking figures highlight that climate change and air pollution are two sides of the same coin. Ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions are just as vital in combating the devastating effects of global climate change as they are in cutting millions of premature deaths due to air pollution.

As COVID-19 has demonstrated, indoor air quality monitoring is important too. 3.8 million people suffer premature deaths annually due to household exposure to particles in homes, offices and public buildings. Indoor air quality impacts mental health, productivity and physical health dramatically.

A reliable, accurate and global air monitoring system is crucial in identifying and mitigating these fatal health risks and saving countless lives. This is especially true in developing countries, where exposures to dangerous levels of pollution are particularly high, both outdoors and indoors.

Air quality monitoring is broken

The data sourced from air quality monitoring systems is vital in locating and evaluating pollution hotspots. Detailed statistics on areas with a high concentration of pollutants can be used to effectively mitigate health risks, especially in inner cities. Measures such as low traffic emission zones, targeted taxation and regulation for individual polluters depend on an accurate and up-to-date analysis of pollution levels. The data can also help identify safe locations for parks and public facilities.

Most traditional air monitoring systems today rely on a scarce distribution of sensors and hypothetical data modelling. These systems deliver at best a snapshot of air pollution and, at worst, an estimation of the local data making it difficult to take targeted actions based on their information output.

A hyperlocal, real-time network of sensors, such as the one enabled by PlanetWatch, can ensure that information is both up-to-date and reliable on a high geographical resolution. This way, hyperlocal data can lead to hyperlocal solutions.

A community-driven solution

With 99% of the global population breathing air that exceeds WHO guideline limits for the concentration of pollutants, air quality affects nearly everyone. This means delivering a successful hyperlocal air quality monitoring system can only be achieved with local communities at its heart. For this to work, sensors must be affordable and easy to use, making swift rollout and large-scale adoption possible.

PlanetWatch believes in a community-driven solution. Our system of plug-and-play devices relies on engaging local organisations and citizens to deploy and manage sensors. This empowers individuals and communities to take part in improving their surroundings. Sensor owners are then rewarded with Planet tokens which can be redeemed for air purifiers and other useful products.

Sensor data is stored safely and anonymously on a blockchain, which guarantees a rapid and immutable transmission. Meanwhile, owners can also voluntarily provide further information to improve the monitoring network. This way, air quality monitoring can be both a personal and collective effort, with individuals and organisations such as local authorities, schools and universities helping make a real difference to their communities.

Creating Smart Cities for the future

Through partnerships with local organisations worldwide, PlanetWatch has a rapidly growing network of sensors providing hyperlocal and reliable data. Further, in partnering with the blockchain ecosystem Algorand, we are demonstrating an important real-life use case for technology with immense potential, now and in future.

A holistic approach that includes cutting-edge technology and people on the ground is the way forward if we are to combat the devastating effects of climate change and air pollution. Everyone has a stake in the future of the planet. Monitoring air quality is vital in identifying where urgent action is needed most.

PlanetWatchPlanetWatch is a French technology company with offices located in Pays de Gex region, close to the Swiss border, the city of Geneva and CERN. PlanetWatch seeks to leverage advanced technologies and the direct engagement of the population to improve environmental monitoring worldwide and help protect public health. Building a global network of outdoor air quality sensors, PlanetWatch records data on the Algorand blockchain, allowing users (PlanetWatchers) to earn reward tokens. Recently, PlanetWatch announced a large-scale deployment of sensors in the city of Miami, adding to its considerable global network of air quality monitoring capabilities.


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