Homemade air quality sensors for everyone
The importance of clean air in cities has been widely discussed in the public, reinforced by the Volkswagen Dieselgate in 2015. The first Covid lockdown showed how polluted the air is in cities worldwide, from China  and India , to Western cities like Los Angeles, where air pollution is an omnipresent issue.
The German city of Stuttgart is a particularly severe case when it comes to air pollution in Germany. Only in January 2017, the air pollution in the city was above EU limits 25 times in this month. The discussion about clean air in this city is so intense, that its citizens sued the mayor for bodily harm. It is therefore no surprise that an initiative was found right in Stuttgart, which aims to give citizens more power on tracking the air pollution in their cities, and thus building a case against the responsible authorities. The result of this is the project “Luftdaten.org”, now called “Sensor Community”.
The aim of this project is simple: It gives everyone a manual and list of equipment to buy and build his or her own air quality sensor and deploy it, mostly outside. This sensor measures two common sizes of fine particular matter, temperature, relative humidity, pressure, and noise. It also gives an evaluation of the air quality, ranging from “good” to “dangerous, based on the US Air Quality Index. And all this for less than 250€ for a kit, and even cheaper if one is willing to find cheaper components. It allows every person to track the air quality in their area and shares the data with a database.
Since this project was launched, it has become a fast-selling item. Until now, more than 13,000 sensors in over 68 countries were deployed, mainly, but not only in Europe. Thus, it does not only provide a huge open-source database for research about air quality in cities, but also gives citizens the awareness of the level of air pollution in their home town, and empowers them to force policy makers taking actions for a cleaner air. This project shows very nicely that nowadays, many people are not only aware of the importance of clean air, but also have the resources to participate in the fight for clean air.
Disclaimer: The Maastricht Center for Real Estate is in no kind related to the project “Sensor Community”. The author’s article was written in complete independence from the project and its founders. The author did not receive any compensation of financial or non-financial type when he wrote this article, and he was not in contact with any of the founders or managing staff of the “Sensor Community” project.