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Insight Climate: Sensing Air

Submitted on Monday, 07/03/2022

By Eoin Jordan PhD student Insight@NUIGalway.

COVID 19 has been a reality check for us all, making us painfully aware of the critical importance of air quality. Airborne diseases can spread easily in poorly ventilated rooms as those infected breathe out, not only carbon dioxide (CO2), but also the virus that causes COVID. Monitoring and lowering carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also of course crucial to the health of the planet as it is recognised as the main cause of the Climate Crises.

Sensing Air is a Citizen Science project involving scientists from the Insight SFI Research Centre for Data Analytics: PhD student Eoin Jordan, Research Assistant Alex Acquier and EPE Manager Brendan Smith. We have partnered with the Centre for Climate and Air Pollution Studies working with the Galway City Partnership, the HSE, the Community Café, Croí na Gaillimhe, Galway Volunteer Centre and a number of city schools to install a network of sensors in local schools, community health facilities and workplaces. Our aim is to read, store and analyse CO2 emissions data which will form a multisite data network with a city dashboard display. This will be a first step in developing a bundle of sensors to target other gases and pollutants such as nitrous dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate matter. It will be complimented by external CO2 and other gas sensors initially in Terryland Forest Park as well as a Mobile Sensor Lab (Sensors on the Go) that has already being brought to different sites across the city and Ireland.

The data from the main internal and external sensors is being viewed as graphic visualisation on a Wall of Dashboards set up by Insight at the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland with monitors displaying data from multiple sensors from different locations.
(Note- the specific locations of the internal sensors will not be shown on the dashboards as anonymity will be given to the sites).

A committee of end-users and researchers has been set up to meet monthly to review and analyse the data collected in order to help highlight and improve air quality in Galway city and to look at the possibility of developing a phone-based sensor app to monitor certain airborne gases and particulates.

The Galway National Park City initiative, of which Insight is a part, provided an opportunity for many of these social partners to meet up with university scientists to develop this project. Three of the carbon dioxide sensors were funded by a bursary provided by the Galway Science and Technology Festival.

The project has been well received within the community. Kieran Tierney, principal, Scoil San Phroinsias said, “The Sensing Air project provides a wonderful opportunity for the pupils in our school to learn how smart technologies can be used to improve the health of people and of the environment.”

Thom Stewart of Galway Community Café said, “I was involved in setting up the Galway Community Café, a free out-of-hours adult mental health service designed and run by people with lived experience of mental health challenges. I have been supporting the Insight Centre on the Sensing Air project as I am keenly aware of the importance of ensuring good air quality for the users of our facility and will work closely with their researchers to review the gases that need be monitored, the data that is collected and what steps need to be taken to see how air quality can be improved.”