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    Air Alert is part of the Civic Alert Project and it is intended to contribute to raising awareness about the air pollution
    and measuring it with the help of citizens, through the use of mobile devices.

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AIR ALERT AIRCASTING

Air Alert proposes solutions for collecting, displaying and sharing environmental data.

We rely on mobile devices and portable sensor devices.

The platform relies on integrated sensors from a small and easy to wear device called AirBeam, which operates as a data feed device for the platform. The air quality is measured, and then the data is sent to any Android type smartphone that has the AirCasting application installed on it. The app displays the relevant data and maps which also appear on the Air Alert’s website.

Each AirCasting + AirBeam session allows the user to take real-time air measurements, to leave side comments on the provided data for describing the situation and to communicate with others through Air Alert, thus increasing the national level of awareness about air pollution.

We started mapping the AirBeam parameters – some of the measurements are being conducted and collected by volunteers or people interested in monitoring the air quality. The user can connect to the AirCasting Android App in order to register health and environmental data, including: the PM2.5 particle levels from the air, the temperature, humidity and the sound level recorded by the telephone’s microphone.

In the future, the list of measuring devices that are available and capable to connect to the platform will grow. Among these, there are also other possible types of measuring devices – including devices for measuring the carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels.

Why Is It Important to Measure the Air Quality?

The PM2.5 levels in the air represent a substantial heath risk in the cities all over the country.

The PM2.5 particles found in the air are very fine and small in size, about 2.5 microns and under. They are invisible to the naked eye, yet have a negative impact on the human body, and thus on our overall health. These minuscule particles (30 of such particles do not exceed the thickness of a single hair) are considered to be a great problem, being mainly derived from motor vehicles’ exhaust gases, from industrial combustion and district heating, from open fires (wood, waste and/or forest fires) and from construction.

From the health point of view, the most toxic dust is made out of particles with a diameter of less than 10 microns, known by the name of PM10. This particulate matter penetrates deep into the respiratory system, reaching the lungs’ interior where it deposits the toxic substances it transports.

Approximately 60% of PM10 consists of type PM2.5 particles with a diameter less than 2.5 microns. With such small dimensions, these particles can penetrate the pulmonary alveoli and even the blood stream, leading to health issues such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary cancer and premature death. They can seriously affect the health of children constantly exposed to environments with air polluted by fine particles.

What Is the Current Situation?

As well expected, the current situation is not at all peachy.

The national air quality monitoring network is underdeveloped and low tech – it is missing altogether from important cities. The situation is far from acceptable even in Bucharest, where eight fixed monitoring stations – managed by the Environmental Protection Agency in Bucharest – were created with substantial investments (including European funds).

A little while back, only one of the eight air quality monitoring stations was functional, thus the system which involved displaying the data and informing the general public was ineffective. The use of an operational mobile lab and the statements according to which action was taken in order to resolve the situation, are only small steps, because the particulate matter and the greenhouse gas emissions problem can be resolved only after serious measures have been taken about finding solutions for preventing the air pollution and applying the current rules in force, especially in the urban environment.

Directive 2008/50/CE* of the European Parliament and of the Council of May 21st, 2008, regarding the surrounding air quality and a better air for Europe, regulates the politics regarding the surrounding air quality. According to this directive, the Member States are required to reduce exposure to PM2.5, PM10 and other pollutants in urban areas (and other areas), imposing strict targets for 2010, 2015, 2020.

Romania is behind with rules enforcement and measures to reduce future air pollution. The specified limits are currently being exceeded in the vast majority of cities and metropolitan areas. Furthermore, the Romanian authorities find themselves in the position to act under threat of infringement procedures enforced by the European Commission when a Member State does not comply with the legislation.

*Directive 2008/50/CE can be consulted, alongside other normative acts, in Romanian, here. In English it can be found here.

What Do We Hope to Realize?

Awareness, involvement and pressure on the general public to improve the situation.
Behavioral changes at the individual level as well as the community and governmental levels.

Certainly, the small portable devices cannot reach the performance levels and precision of the professional measuring devices, yet the latter are rare and extremely expensive. Also, some affordable devices are already accurate enough to offer relevant data for creating air pollution guiding maps.

Thus, by utilizing affordable and easy to use high tech devices and platforms, Air Alert aims to contribute in helping improve the quality of the air we breathe. Through technology and crowdsourcing we strive to involve as many people as possible in monitoring the air pollution, we strive to raise awareness – to make people understand the gravity of this problem and have them talk about it.

Monitoring, raising awareness and involvement bring the subject into conversation more often, gain the attention of the media and provide an incentive for the authorities to make greater efforts to find solutions. The public authorities have the obligation to remedy the situation, to ensure compliance with the rules in force (rules established at the European level); to take action so that at least the future generations could breathe a cleaner air.

Also, knowingly, each individual, organization or community can do more for the space in which they live and operate.

Who Is Air Alert? What about Civic Alert?

Air Alert is a civic (urban) project, part of a larger initiative of the Civic Alert Association.
The Civic Alert Association is an urban initiative that emerged from the desire to live in a more civilized space. We promote the involvement of each and every one of us in the life of our community, in a simple way, through utilizing the current technology.

Civic Alert operates with a team of permanent members and collaborators, which includes IT professionals, project management, creation, marketing and communications – who dedicate a great deal of their time to the projects. The Association also has a volunteer program in which anyone who wishes to directly contribute to creating a more civilized space can participate.

The Civic Alert Association does not have an affiliation with any political parties or public institutions.

Civic Alert is a nonprofit organization, financed through contributions, donations and sponsorships. We cannot carry on our activities if we do not constantly benefit from financial support, thus any contribution is very important. The funds we receive are utilized for the ongoing projects (such as Civic Alert or Air Alert), yet also for launching new initiatives that use technology and communication for improving the public space and the society we live in.
Please take into consideration one of the financial support options available here.

Thank You!

For more information about the Civic Alert App, please go to www.civicalert.ro

How Do AirBeam and AirCasting Work?

AirBeam uses a light scattering method to measure the fine particles – called PM2.5 – in the air.

Air is drawn through a sensing chamber wherein light from an LED bulb scatters off particles in the airstream. This light scatter is recorded by a detector and converted into a measurement that estimates the number of particles in the air.

Via Bluetooth, the AirBeam measurements are communicated once a second to the AirCasting Android* app, which maps and graphs the data in real-time on your smartphone. At the end of each AirCasting** session, the collected data is sent to the platform and retrieved by the Air Alert website.
This information is outsourced together with data from other users to generate maps indicating where PM2.5*** concentrations are highest and lowest.

* The AirCasting app for Android can be found in Google Play, here.
**They can connect to the AirCasting platform and other types of portable devices capable to take various measurements. Among these, there is also AirCasting Air Monitor (ACAM), which can measure CO and NO2, as well as the temperature and humidity levels in the air. Details about this and other information about AirBeam can be found on www.aircasting.org. For the tech-savvy, it is good to know that both devices can be homemade; the links to the necessary information and blueprints are available here.
*** PM2.5 are particles of matter with a diameter under 2.5 microns. These minuscule particles (30 of such particles do not exceed the thickness of a single hair) are considered to be a great problem, as they derive from motor vehicles’ exhaust gases, from industrial combustion and district heating, from open fires (wood, waste and/or forest fires) and from construction.

AirBeam tehnical information

Performance Data

The below claims and disclaimers are based on comparisons between the AirBeam, a Thermo Scientific pDR-1500 with a PM2.5 cut-point inlet, and teflon filter samples subjected to gravimetric analysis. The pDR-1500 is a $5,000, 2.5 lb air quality monitor frequently used by government and academic researchers to evaluate personal exposure to fine particulate matter or PM2.5. Teflon filter samples were taken with a Leland Legacy 10L pump and PM2.5 cut-point inlet and weighed at the NYU School of Medicine’s filter weighing room, which meets EPA guidelines for filter conditioning, storage, and gravimetric measurement of PM2.5 and PM10 filters. Filters subjected to gravimetric analysis are the “gold standard” for measuring PM2.5. Additional research is required to fully characterize the performance of the AirBeam and we look forward to working with the AirCasting community to “fill in the gaps”.
When presenting our performance data on the AirBeam below, we include R2 or R-squared values to indicate how the AirBeam compares with other methods for measuring PM2.5. R2 is a statistical measure that indicates how well data fit a statistical model, in this case, the prediction of the Y-axis (AirBeam) from the X-axis (pDR-1500) using a linear (straight) or nonlinear (curved) line. The R2 value is a fraction that ranges from 0.0 to 1.0 with higher values indicating that the regression came more closely to the points. An R2 value of 1.0 means that the predictive power of the model is perfect, that all the points lie along the line or curve with no scatter.
Below 100 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m³), samples collected in ambient air in Manhattan (samples were collected on 11 different occasions and averaged over 12 hour periods) and while burning cardboard indoors (samples were collected over a 1 hour period and averaged every minute) both showed a strong linear relationship between the AirBeam and pDR-1500 measurements. As illustrated in Figure 1, the R2 values below 24 µg/m³ for two AirBeams in ambient air in Manhattan were .98 or better.

Figure 1

As illustrated in Figure 2, the R2 values below 100 µg/m³ for four AirBeams while burning cardboard indoors were .94 or better. Also shown in Figure 2, “out-of-the-box” variability between AirBeams is more pronounced as the measurements climb above 30 µg/m³. Meaning that measurements recorded by two AirBeams exposed to identical air samples may begin to drift apart as PM2.5 concentrations increase. Out-of-the-box variability can be substantially reduced by using the AirCasting app calibration feature (still in beta) and adjusting the side-facing potentiometer on the Shinyei PPD60PV.

Figure 2

Because the relationship between the AirBeam and pDR-1500 measurements becomes increasingly non-linear above 100 µg/m³, a nonlinear regression curve was used to determine the relationship between the AirBeam and pDR-1500 measurements at higher concentrations, see Figure 3 (samples were collected over a 1 hour period and averaged every minute). During separate sampling runs, we calculated R2 values for the nonlinear regression curve ranging from 0.60 to 0.80. The decrease in R2 values as compared to the linear regression is likely attributed to higher variability near and above the AirBeam’s maximum limit of detection, which we estimate to be approximately 400 µg/m³.

Figure 3

Additional research is required to see how the maximum limit of detection is impacted by the reflectivity of the aerosol being sampled. The relative reflectivity of aerosols impacts the AirBeam measurements. Highly reflective aerosols, like wood smoke, bias the AirBeam measurements upwards, whereas less reflective aerosols, like diesel exhaust, bias the AirBeam measurements downwards.

During ambient air sampling in Lower Manhattan during the summer months, measurements from a pDR-1500 and two Airbeams were compared against a teflon filter subjected to gravimetric analysis, see Figure 4. Sampling was done in 12-hour averages each day for 11 days and averaged to compare the real time instruments against the gravimetric filters. When compared against the gravimetric filters, the R2 value of AirBeams was found to be 0.70 compared to 0.76 for the pDR-1500. Time weighted averages of the gravimetric filter data showed consistently higher values as compared to the pDR-1500 at ambient levels. We assume this downward bias is also in effect with the AirBeam, since both are light scattering particle counters. Further, we assume part of this this bias can be attributed to the relative reflectivity of the aerosol being measured. The R2 value of the pDR-1500 measured against the AirBeams during these 12-hour day averages was found to be 0.98.

fig4

Figure 4

Research conducted by others on light scattering particle counters indicates that high relative humidity (>80%) is likely to have a negative impact on the accuracy of the AirBeam. When relative humidity is high, aerosols take on water becoming more reflective. Additional research is required to better characterize this effect as it applies to the AirBeam.

AirBeam performance data collection, analysis, and findings are the work of Alex Besser and Michael Heimbinder. Alex is a graduate student in Environmental Toxicology at New York University. Michael is the Founder and Executive Director of HabitatMap and AirBeam Lead Developer. Dr. George Thurston, Alex’s academic adviser and professor of Environmental Medicine at New York University School of Medicine, provided the material resources and guidance that made this research possible.

PUBLISHED: October 16, 2014

What is AirCasting? Who Utilizes AirCasting?

A platform for all who wish to bring their contribution to the space they live in.

AirCasting is an open-source, end-to-end platform used worldwide by those who want to contribute to measuring, collecting, displaying and sharing health and environmental data though the use of mobile devices.

It is used by community-based organizations, schools, research institutions and scientists, and especially, it is used by citizens interested in health and environmental monitoring, electrical engineering and mechanics, design and rapid prototyping.

We live in a society where expert knowledge does not exclusively belong to the experts any longer, where citizens armed with affordable tools can bring unprecedented contributions to the scientific understanding.

How to Use the AirCasting Map?

The data collected by AirCasting can be filtered and displayed on the Air Alert website maps at: www.aircasting.org. The following options can be used as general search filters: ”CrowdMap” and ”Sessions”.

CrowdMap

The CrowdMap displays AirCasting data from all contributors and all the recorded sessions. Each square’s color corresponds to the average intensity of all the measurements recorded in that area.  Click on any coloured square for viewing the underlying data.

The displayed map in the CrowdMap format becomes more relevant and comprehensive as the numbers grow among the users of the AirCasting platform and AirBeam mobile devices (capable to measure pollution from various factors).

To view data from other sensors/ other measurements, use the ”Parameter – Sensor” filter. Note, however, that the maps are generated through crowdsourcing and are populated with data only after enough users send relevant data, measured with their smartphone or other devices that can connect to the AirCasting platform (through the app). By using the search filters you can adjust other display parameters, as well.

Sessions

You can enter a user name to identify specific measuring sessions and you can view them separately. Routing information is displayed for the intensity of the AirCasting sessions. To view a specific session, select a session from the list. The colour of a dot corresponds to a measurement’s intensity from that location.

By using technology and crowdsourcing we can all contribute to creating a cleaner, more civilized space.

Air Pollution Map – Fine PM2.5 Particles

The maps are generated through crowdsourcing. They become more relevant as the numbers increase among the users who provide data via smartphones or other portable devices used to measure the pollution levels.

HOW CAN YOU CONTRIBUTE?

We need your help to make a difference.

TELL OTHERS!

Be informed and spread the word about the dust, fine particles and greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our air, about the health threat that these pose to us and to our children – especially to those who live in cities, and about the action needed to be taken by the government and the rules that need to be enforced in order to reduce pollution.
Use your group and social networks to discuss and send useful information to others. Be an opinion leader in your community. Tell others about the Air Alert project, about the Civic Alert initiatives and other similar ones, when you hear about it.

STAY ALERT!

Be alert of your surroundings and take action whenever you can. On a personal level, ensure that you and your belongings (car, scooter, house, business, etc.) do not generate excessive air pollution and that you comply with the rules in force. Use ecological means and methods whenever possible.

When you notice something wrong – such as poorly managed construction sites (unfenced, not finalized on time), polluting motor vehicles (emitting excessive exhaust gas) or other pollutants – report to the authorities, in person or via the Civic Alert app (for iPhone and Android smartphones).

DONATE!

Civic Alert is a nonprofit organization, financed through contributions, donations and sponsorships. We are not affiliated with any political party nor public institutions and we cannot operate unless we find constant financial support, thus any contribution is important. Your help matters!

TAKE MEASUREMENTS YOURSELF!

Purchase an AirBeam device, install the AirCasting app on an Android type smartphone and measure the PM2.5 air pollution wherever you go. This way you will contribute to generating maps that are relevant to the public opinion, and you will also contribute to communicating and sharing information.

Do you need more details? Do you wish to get involved?

Contact us by using the following form:

* Please fill in the fields marked by asterisk.

3 + 0 = ?

Air Alert is a Civic Alert Association project

54 Transilvaniei Str., Ap.2, sector 1, 010799 Bucharest, Romania
www.civicalert.ro
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