OPEN Ambient Air Quality DATA

There is some serious competition in the market of environmental monitoring and particularly in air quality. There are a lot of ambient air quality monitors available with great features and great sensors, the problem is that society doesn’t benefit from the variability of monitors because AQ data are scattered in different platforms/maps. It is hard for end-users and citizens to find which monitor is active and where (especially if you move). Someone needs to gather low-cost AQ data from everywhere and offer it to users in easy service.

Last year, on my trip across Europe, I monitored air quality with a portable monitor, but I wanted to compare the data I got against the official or other low-cost monitors out there. It was impossible!

The openaq team is doing just that. They are gathering data from official and low-cost sensors (stationary and mobile). Unfortunately, even today I cannot access data from specific low-cost monitors that take advantage of the API and their open map.

This are the brands that collaborate and they provide data to openaq:

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High-End Professional vs Low-Cost Professional Ambient Air Quality Monitors

In the space of ambient air quality monitoring, there are two basic and distinctive categories of professional air quality monitors; the High-End Professional and Low-Cost Professional monitors. I have been asked multiple times to recommend monitors for scientific studies and the deployment of them in cities.

It is very important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of both categories. It is also mandatory to recognize the fact that we will never get the exact same measurement from either category of sensors.

High-End Professional AQA

High-End Professional ambient air quality analyzers are used mostly by governments inside the air quality stations we have in most cities. Their strength is that they meet international standards for accuracy and they are certified by the EU (and similar bodies) to meet minimum performance requirements, in order to ensure that the measurement methods comply with the Data Quality Objectives set down in the Ambient Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC) and in the amending Directive (EU) 2015/1480. Their weakness is that they require lots of energy to operate. In most cases, they are inside a fixed container with a refrigeration system to keep conditions stable. They are big and boxy in size and very expensive to purchase and operate. Additionally, they need constant maintenance by a technician. Another weakness is that in most cases these analyzers are not smart enough to broadcast measurement in real-time to the Cloud and they require other pieces of equipment to do that job, as a result, the cost of operation increases.

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