Low Cost Dust Sensor for Smartphones Monitors Air Pollution in Real Time


smartphone-fine-dust-sensorOur smartphones are increasingly becoming even smarter, simply because it is so much easier to carry an “all-in-one” pocket device, instead of ten different ones. So, would you be happy to know that your phone can generate an urban pollution map, with the help of a small attachable sensor, or would this be just another extra that you would never use?

In places like Beijing or London, it is easy to spot the smog with your naked eyes making you aware of the fact that you probably should not be walking around without a mask on your face. However, dangerous levels of pollutants can be present even when we cannot see the dust, turning air pollution into an invisible killer. With this thought in mind, scientists from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology decided to develop a sensor, which attaches to a smartphone, and generates real-time pollution maps. This allows everyone to monitor the air they breathe and get an estimate of the level of toxic gases around them.

The gadget has a camera with LED light of a very high intensity, which measures coarse pollutants in the air, such as these emitted by vehicles. This is an improvement to the technology developed by Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego, which we told you about some time ago. The information is read by an app, which analyzes the photos and creates the real-time maps.

The relatively cheap dust sensor, Sharp GP2Y1010 is now coming freshly out of the lab, and it is currently undertaking field tests. The researchers are trying to estimate exactly how many users are required to send measurements simultaneously, so that the maps could be reliable.

Although the idea is great, and I definitely support this work, I would prefer to have the sensor in-built in my smartphone, if I am to use it on daily basis. My personal reasons for this are two. First, because I tend to forget many things that I need to take with me when I go out, so all-in-one often saves my life (literally). And second, because for me smartphone means convenience. Being able to take photos, read a book, check emails, write messages, etc etc., whenever and wherever I feel like, without having to bring an extra extension or a gadget, is what actually attracts me to the smartphone concept.

Having said that, I am certain that the pollution mapping sensors would be highly appreciated by environmental city officials and scientists, who need to monitor the levels of fine particles and issue policies, warnings and fines. All in all, I think it will be a great gadget.

Image (c) KIT

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