Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center
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Mobile Sensors

South Coast AQMD to partner with Google for Mobile Sensing Project

The Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center (AQ-SPEC) at South Coast AQMD began a partnership with Google Earth Outreach to test the performance of low-cost sensors on moving vehicles. As part of this project, low-cost sensors will take measurements of ambient air on a Google StreetView car that is driving through different locations.

The project is intended to analyze the potential and limitations of low-cost air monitoring sensors for measuring fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone (O3) and other air pollutants and determine which types may be best suited for mobile uses.

Figure 1. Google StreetView Car at South Coast AQMD's AQ-SPEC

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AQ-SPEC has been conducting stationary field and laboratory testing of commercially available low-cost sensors since 2014, and this new project will provide additional information on the performance of low-cost sensors when used in mobile monitoring applications. A protocol with best practices for conducting mobile monitoring using sensors will also be developed as part of this collaboration with Google. This will be particularly important for community scientists and groups that are interested in conducting measurement surveys at the neighborhood level.

Figure 2. Example of a test route for the performance evaluation of low-cost sensors for measuring PM2.5 (on the left) and NO2 (on the right). Measurements were conducted on board of a Google Street View car in the Wilmington/West Long Beach/Carson area on August 26, 2019.santafemap2

 
Mobile sensors gathering street level data will allow collection of more air pollution information over a much larger area than traditional air monitoring technologies that stay in one location. These mobile measurements are expected to demonstrate how much pollution can change over very short distances, such as a city block or throughout a neighborhood.

Given their comparatively low-cost compared to traditional fixed-site equipment, when proven to be accurate and reliable, mobile sensors could also become useful tools for introducing students to air quality issues, and for environmental groups and individuals to independently evaluate air quality.

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