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What's the problem with low-cost air quality sensors?

Idit Lowenstein

As air pollution worldwide continues to invade the precious air that we breathe, we don’t just simply face the inconvenience of smoggy skies and heavy air. It is a serious health risk, and especially problematic for those who already suffer from heart and lung diseases, such as COPD and asthma.

The number of people worldwide that live in polluted urban centers that exceed the WHO's acceptable standard of air quality is shockingly over 80%.

One of the most concerning aspects of air pollution is that its presence is not always visible to the human eye, yet we cannot close our eyes to its devastating health impact. Short-term and long-term exposure to air pollution increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, lung disease, premature death and leads to more asthma attacks. Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) and ozone are two of the main culprits that pose health hazards. As the emphasis on global dangers of this air pollution continues to grow, so do the number of low-cost air quality sensors, in an attempt to protect ourselves from the air we must breathe.

The Rise in Low-Cost Air Quality Sensors

The urgency to design and manufacture low-cost air quality sensors is widespread, ranging in types from stationary to portable ones. However, the accuracy and completeness of their data is not perfect.

At best, low-cost air quality sensors can provide air quality monitoring of specific pollutants. However, without the ability to conduct in-depth air quality data analysis and advanced QA, the accuracy of the low-cost air quality sensors pollutant readings cannot be relied upon completely.

There is also no guarantee that low-cost air quality sensors can decipher between the different types of key air pollutants, which is just as critical as having the ability to provide the accurate levels of each air pollutant. For example, if fine particulate matter (PM) is monitored but not ozone (O3), and O3 is high but the sensor says everything (PM) is ok, then there can be unanticipated health issues, especially for those already sensitive to ozone, like children.

Low-cost air quality sensors help bring awareness to the real need for air quality monitoring, but unfortunately, lack advanced technology to provide accurate measurements of the current conditions.

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How BreezoMeter's Outdoor Air Quality Data Solution Can Help

BreezoMeter’s technology, when integrated into personal, affordable air quality sensors, provides accurate outdoor air quality analysis and real-time results by using big data analytics, together with advanced algorithms and machine learning. Through calibration, advanced QA, ongoing monitoring and air quality data analysis, BreezoMeter uses technology to ensure data accuracy that is necessary to produce valuable and actionable results and feedback in real time. Outdoor air quality is dynamic, changing over the course of a day.

This accurate air quality data analysis is just half of the equation: BreezoMeter takes the data and offers comprehensive advice and health recommendations based on current, real-time pollution levels in the precise area. Depending on the level of air pollution, recommendations may include closing the window if you are inside, avoiding physical activities if you are outside, suggesting only moderate exercise outside, or a recommended maximum length of time to remain outdoors.

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BreezoMeter’s technology is ideal for governments and municipalities for urban planning for example, for companies that manufacture indoor and/or outdoor low-cost air quality sensors, or for manufacturers of indoor home air quality sensors that wish to have a smart home integrated air quality sensor as a complete product solution to offer consumers.

Since low-cost air quality sensors are limited in their ability to address all of the main pollutants that affect health, BreezoMeter’s advanced technology can help improve the solution by providing context for the end user, as well as actionable health recommendations.  Knowing what is in the air you breath while inside and on the go is crucial information for being able to take steps to reducing exposure to harmful air pollutants that are all around us.

Are you interested in integrating accurate real-time, location-based air quality data into your product, app, or technology? Talk with an Air Quality Expert, today!

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Originally published September 2016, the post was updated to include more information about how integrating an outdoor air quality data API can improve the reliability of the experience of using cheap air quality sensors.

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