After the fiasco with the exposure notifications on smartphones which was designed by Apple and Google to facilitate digital contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized that governments weren’t ready to accept the terms of the service for privacy reasons probably and also users weren’t keen on enabling such feature probably for the same reasons.
We have to be able to monitor the situation in indoor environments beyond the location of an individual and we already do that with air quality monitors. Indoor air quality monitors help us see the air we are exposed to and when something isn’t right like high CO2 concentrations, we get notified to act by opening the windows or turning on the ventilation system, or eventually leaving the room if none of the latter are an option.
I propose to bring that kind of awareness to the indoor environments of transports, especially, in long-distance buses, airplanes, and trains as we spend substation time inside these transports and we all share the same air.
Most vehicles allow drivers to choose between outdoor air or recycled air. They never ever mention the benefits of fresh air (but not clean) to the drivers, so in most cases, drivers never change the settings. Have you ever been in a car for a long time, having the recycled air turned on? The drivers always complain about the lack of focus or energy and many passengers fall asleep. In most cases, this is due to the lack of oxygen and the high CO2 concentration which is scientifically proved to affect and decrease cognitive function.
The same thing applies inside an airplane. However, the pilots get the most oxygen from the rest of the occupants in the plane, but still, I am not sure if the bus drivers know about the indoor air quality (IAQ) of their buses and the outdoor air or where is the recycled air switch.
Not only that, we know that CO2 is a great indicator of ventilation rates and consequently indicates the viral load inside a transport. A viral load is a numerical expression of the quantity of virus in a given volume of air. The higher the viral load the most likely is to catch the virus, any virus, or pathogen.
Air quality data like CO2/PM2.5 are not as privacy-sensitive as location information and they can help us in mitigating the spread of diseases and improving our cognitive abilities and health. Clean air means healthy lungs, heart, and brain.
Indoor air quality monitors are relatively inexpensive and CO2 sensors can operate for up to 15 years. They will also reveal the truth about the air we breathe in cities. I know that not many council members want people to know that the air they are exposed to daily is poor and unhealthy but if you are a good politician with real morals and compassion for your fellow dwellers then you want the best for them.
So maybe it is time to start designing indoor air quality monitors for transports. They can work offline or online depending on the transport. Passengers can access the information as their ticket can host a QR code with the link of the specific monitor/transport/route. In the case of an off-line monitor then a display with clear readings will allow passengers and the staff/cabin crew of the transport to adjust the indoor conditions.