Types Of IoT-Based Air Quality Monitoring Solutions

Here is something you cannot deny - without air, there is no life, which is why preserving its quality is essential. This latest blog discusses how the Internet of Things (IoT) helps in this endeavour, the different ways to test and improve indoor air quality, and the types of air quality monitoring solutions along with the sensors used in such IoT devices:

Air quality monitoring
Published 10 Oct 2022Updated 10 Oct 2022
Autor Name

Kamal R

Table of Content

  • A sneak peek into the world of air quality monitoring systems
    • Air quality index: An overview
      • Best ways to test indoor air quality
        • Tips for improving indoor air quality
          • 1. Controlling the source
            • 2. Refining the ventilation
              • 3. Cleaning the air
              • Types of air quality monitoring
                • 1. Indoor air quality monitoring and testing
                  • 2. Ambient air quality monitoring and testing
                    • 3. Stack emission monitoring & testing
                    • Sensors and devices used in air quality monitoring and testing
                      • 1. PMS5003 PM2.5 particulate matter sensor
                        • 2. MQ-135 air quality sensor
                          • 3. BME280 barometric pressure sensor
                            • 4. VOC sensor
                            • Benefits of IoT-based air quality monitoring
                              • 1. Monitoring of air effectively
                                • 2. Detection of toxic gasses
                                  • 3. Measurement of temperature and humidity
                                    • 4. Preservation of human health
                                    • Over to you

                                      Is it not great to have the pandemic far behind us? Remember when it was not right to breathe the same as the other person - who was not standing six feet apart? Wearing masks and experiencing city-wide lockdowns were the norm.

                                      Following COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) was necessary to ensure indoor air quality was not hampered. While air is important for sustaining life, we cannot play down its impact on industries either.

                                      Air quality, in general, influences worker performance, which, in turn, affects how well they can do their job. You just cannot take air quality lightly anymore when it comes to the health of us humans and society as a whole.

                                      A sneak peek into the world of air quality monitoring systems

                                      Monitoring air quality has become necessary with the rising pollution levels and health concerns. IoT technology has made it easier to keep an eye on air quality.

                                      There are multiple ways of monitoring air quality, including the traditional method comprising FRM/FEM monitors, satellites, mobile air quality sensors, and low-cost stationary devices. There are distinct benefits and drawbacks of each monitoring system.

                                      Every method of measuring air quality also results in unique data returns, such as varying spatiotemporal resolution and precision, which results in diverse understandings of air pollution dynamics.

                                      For instance, the traditional air quality monitoring methods that use the FRM/FEM monitors involve strict measurement standards. They are used by government bodies such as USEPA. 

                                      On the other hand, air quality monitoring 2.0 uses IoT technology and mobile air quality sensors to examine the quality throughout an area within a predetermined duration. Moreover, IoT sensors can be used for both indoor and outdoor air monitoring initiatives.

                                      Despite lacking time trends, low-cost stationary sensors can provide great spatial data coverage. Interestingly, satellites can also be used to monitor pollution because they give a large-scale view. NASA's MODIS has been working on this technology.

                                      Air quality index: An overview

                                      Monitoring your establishment's indoor air quality entails acquiring ongoing information on the particles, gasses, and chemicals. Pollutant information is gathered to recognise patterns, pinpoint problematic areas, and make necessary corrections.

                                      Air Quality Index: An Overview

                                      Moreover, the monitoring arrangement also leads to living in a healthy indoor environment. Well, in simpler terms, indoor monitoring of air quality is based on three critical aspects:

                                      • Pollutants should be controlled.

                                      • There should be a proper ventilation system.

                                      • There should be balanced temperature and humidity conditions.

                                      The testing methods are classified into two types:

                                      • Real-time or continuous indoor air quality monitoring:

                                      It is the procedure of acquiring Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) data 24X7. IAQ sensors are used to collect per minute readings of the indoor air.

                                      • Indoor air quality testing:

                                      This method is quite different from real-time testing for air quality only happens sometimes. A professional often utilizes a handheld probe to capture an instantaneous air quality profile.

                                      Best ways to test indoor air quality

                                      It is obvious - measuring indoor air quality involves monitoring done by the sensors by detecting the presence of pollutants in the air. In addition to detecting pollutants, other core categories include carbon monoxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), humidity, particulate matter, radon, methane, bioaerosols, and formaldehyde.

                                      According to EPA, there should be one sensor for every 10,000 sq. feet in a closed establishment. Furthermore, sensor placement also plays a vital role in indoor monitoring. You can place sensors across the building. However, avoiding places such as heaters, induction units, floor fans, or direct sunlight is advisable.

                                      Therefore, a wall-mounted sensor is the best buy for this case. It should be fixed at a suitable height to get relevant results. The height also depends on the pollutant you are attempting to detect. You will need to place the sensor correctly, as some compounds may have varying molecular weights and migrate towards the floor or ceiling.

                                      Tips for improving indoor air quality

                                      The most effective method of improving indoor air quality is to eliminate the individual sources of pollution, such as asbestos, or reduce their emissions, such as using gas stoves.

                                      You can also deploy air purifiers at your establishment so that you are always breathing fresh air. However, if we were to explore in detail, here is how we can improve indoor air quality:

                                      1. Controlling the source

                                      It is some of the most cost-effective methods of improving air quality. This can be done only after knowing the specific source of pollution.

                                      2. Refining the ventilation

                                      You can improve the ventilation of a closed chamber or house by letting fresh outside air come indoors. You can also install HVAC systems to obtain a well-ventilated and comfortable environment.

                                      3. Cleaning the air

                                      This method specializes in removing the particulate matter present in the air.

                                      Types of air quality monitoring

                                      A recent report by the Lancet Planetary Health says that air pollution causes over 6.5 million deaths each year globally. People are getting even more concerned about air quality after the COVID pandemic. They strive to secure a clean and germ-free environment around them, especially in enclosed spaces. 

                                      The main reasons behind poor air quality are extreme traffic, non-filtered industrial gas emissions, open burning of garbage, and indoor air pollution. Though you cannot stop transportation or industrial production, there are different ways to monitor how much dust particles are mixed into the air to control the emission, such as:

                                      1. Indoor air quality monitoring and testing

                                      Indoor air quality impacts both one's physical and mental health. That's why monitoring air quality inside four walls is getting serious attention. The two most popular methods are real-time indoor air quality monitoring and indoor air quality testing. 

                                       Indoor air quality monitoring and testing

                                      Real-time indoor air quality monitoring is a continuous test that collects the data every minute, 24/7, considering the dynamic nature of the air. On the other hand, indoor air quality testing is concerned with collecting random data at a single point.

                                      The aim is to understand the average air quality of the space. Both personal and public indoor places need to adopt the technique on a regular basis to ensure that the occupants can breathe healthy air. Continuous monitoring enables you to detect fundamental problems and implement respective migration solutions.

                                      Again, quality testing would be performed to check the progress periodically. This is important as research by EPA demonstrates that polluted indoor air can be more harmful than outdoor air as people spend more time indoors. It usually contains 2-5X higher pollutants than outdoor air.

                                      2. Ambient air quality monitoring and testing

                                      Ambient air quality refers to the outdoor air that people are exposed to easily. The pollutants damage not only human health but also animals and other elements of nature. Some harmful chemicals and particles can manipulate the air quality to an extreme level. A particular frequency must be maintained to collect data from a specific outdoor area. 

                                      Ambient air quality monitoring and testing

                                      Generally, 8 hours or 24 hours of average data is taken to calculate a generic report. Based on the report, you can determine current air quality and the effect of the adopted air purifying system. It may vary depending on distinct seasons as particle density fluctuates. Necessary changes need to be made to the air monitoring systems to maintain the accuracy of reports.

                                      Also, continuous air quality monitoring stations are installed in different metro cities to control air quality strictly. Depending upon the collected data, polluted areas are identified, and the pollution level is determined. It is crucial to monitor ambient air quality to ensure safe outdoor and indoor air. Also, it helps understand the impact of poor air quality on public health.

                                      3. Stack emission monitoring & testing

                                      Stack emission monitoring and testing measures the amount of harmful pollutants or waste gasses released into the atmosphere by industries and factories. Stacks are chimneys designed to discharge particulate matter, pollutants, and other poisonous gasses into the atmosphere.

                                      Stack emission monitoring & testing

                                      These stacks help keep the factory environment pollution-free and are elevated to prevent damage to the ground life. The pollutants comprise solid, liquid, or gaseous wastes, organic or inorganic, emitted from the stacks.

                                      Air quality is monitored at the stack plants, and the effectiveness of the pollution control technology is measured. The information obtained may also be utilized to demonstrate compliance requirements and benchmark performance.

                                      It plays a crucial role as it allows real-time monitoring of the emission of harmful Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), Sulfur Oxide (SOx), or any other hazardous pollutants. Strict emission standards are to be maintained to prevent fines imposed on the factories.

                                      IoT-Enabled Green Technology: Benefits, Use Cases, Challenges

                                      Sensors and devices used in air quality monitoring and testing

                                      An environmental IoT air pollution or quality monitoring system uses three sensors to monitor the pollution level from remote locations. It measures the concentration of particulate matter, gasses, and other parameters, including temperature, pressure, and humidity. 

                                      Take any IoT-equipped platform as an example. You will see it can send real-time updates automatically to the customized management dashboard using a set of smart sensors and gateways. The sensors used in smart air quality monitoring solutions are:

                                      1. PMS5003 PM2.5 particulate matter sensor

                                      PMS5003 PM2.5 particulate matter sensor

                                      The PMS5003 is a cheap laser particle counter and one of Plantower Technology's lines of sensors, including the PMS 7003, PMS 3003, and PMS 1003. This sensor is specially used to find the number of airborne suspended particles.

                                      In simpler words, this sensor digitalized the output obtained from the concentration of particles present in the air. PMS 5003 is a universal sensor commonly used in air monitoring devices.

                                      2. MQ-135 air quality sensor

                                      MQ-135 air quality sensor

                                      This sensor is mainly used to detect the presence of gasses, namely ammonia, oxygen, nitrogen, aromatic compounds, any type of smoke or alcohol, and sulfides. The MQ-3 gas sensor's material has a reduced conductivity to purify the air. Moreover, this sensor uses an output signal indicator and helps detect and monitor harmful gasses, such as the steam in the air.

                                      3. BME280 barometric pressure sensor

                                      BME280 barometric pressure sensor

                                      These barometric sensors are very compact and have a lower power consumption rate. They can keep track of various atmospheric factors, including temperature, humidity, pressure, and others. This sensor works well for several weather-sensing applications and is compatible with I2C (half-duplex communication) and SPI (duplex communication).

                                      4. VOC sensor

                                      VOC sensor

                                      This is a sensor that effectively detects VOCs, which are nothing but hydro-carbon-based products and organic solvents that have the power to damage the nervous system. These can be found in petroleum products, olefins, paraffin, and aromatic items. IoT technology makes it possible to identify such materials in the air and notify the concerned stakeholders for action.

                                      Benefits of IoT-based air quality monitoring

                                      IoT has been instrumental in the growth and revival of many business verticals. The technology also improves the quality of human life by keeping real-time track of environmental changes. Some of the benefits of an IoT-based air quality monitoring system are as follows:

                                      1. Monitoring of air effectively

                                      Certain advanced sensors are capable of working proficiently and automatically in closed spaces in desired areas. These sensors are so efficient that they can detect the presence of any particulate matter or other pollutants in the air and send notifications on your smartphones in real time.

                                      The salient feature benefits the authorities by enabling them to detect the problem and take corrective measures before a mishap happens. Moreover, the prominent notification feature allows the management to keep an eye on the air quality - without burning a hole in the pocket. Who does not want that?

                                      To ensure that they do not miss anything and to keep the environment healthy enough for humans to thrive, the notifications are provided via push notifications or SMS alerts on their smart devices.

                                      2. Detection of toxic gasses

                                      The best air quality monitoring systems powered by IoT are outfitted with advanced sensor devices, which also have updated gateway connectivity to detect the presence of hazardous gasses within the building. Besides, these monitoring systems provide solutions to be taken through your smartphones and prevent the outbreak of a disaster. 

                                      Therefore, the IoT-powered monitoring system is a crucial addition to lessen the likelihood of any gas explosions, fire risks, or any other severe naturally occurring disasters.

                                      Furthermore, the IoT solution is entirely under the control of the industry managers, who can take the necessary action as soon as emergency triggers are received on their devices. As a result, maintenance and operational costs in the sector are reduced.

                                      3. Measurement of temperature and humidity

                                      IoT technology is so advanced that it does not limit itself only to monitoring systems. It also helps monitor the humidity-to-temperature ratio within any industrial premises.

                                      It aids authorities in maintaining the appropriate environment necessary for workers to function under certain environmental situations by upholding real-time control of IoT-based solutions. 

                                      Therefore, this system of monitoring the temperature and humidity plays a crucial role in maintaining a favorable environment after a scenario analysis.

                                      Furthermore, IoT-powered air monitoring systems are very useful in the mining industry as they can detect the oxygen level present. It helps alert workers when the O2 level decreases, thereby playing a vital role in employee safety.

                                      4. Preservation of human health

                                      In the last couple of years, pollution has become a threat to humanity. Human health is deteriorating daily due to the increase of air pollutants or particulate matter in the air. It does not matter whether we are indoors or outside; the air pollution nowadays is affecting us severely.

                                      Therefore, it is imperative to have an air quality monitoring device installed in our establishments to reside in a healthy and pollution-free environment. Moreover, these devices maintain a moderate ambiance and help reduce any health issues caused by air pollution.

                                      Over to you

                                      In a nutshell, we can conclude that establishments have benefited more from the superior services offered by IoT-powered solutions, which, in turn, have helped them improve their customer services.

                                      These gadgets efficiently track down and eliminate any particulate matter or pollutants in the air, thus improving the air quality surrounding urban and industrial areas.

                                      The IoT-powered devices are easy to install and work efficiently in triggering the authorities in case any action needs to be performed.

                                      Monitoring devices are a must-buy product for all industries since they help improve the health and safety of employees in various working environments. If you want to develop a smart indoor or outdoor air quality monitoring system and need a strong tech partner to support your project, you can always count on our knowledge and expertise.

                                      Let us build reliable IoT solutions for you