Environment air-quality-sensor-elm

Published on June 16th, 2014 | by Derek Markham

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Real-Time Air Quality Sensor Network Launched in Boston

air-quality-sensor-elmA network of real-time air quality sensors, capable of taking readings every 20 seconds, is now online in Boston, MA, giving citizens up-to-the-minute data on the air they breathe.

The Elm network consists of a series of connected sensors capable of measuring seven different air quality indicators, including particulates, nitrogen dioxide, nitrous oxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds, noise levels, temperature, and humidity, and uploading the data to a secure network, where it can be viewed and analyzed by anyone.

While there are many air quality monitoring systems already in place for municipalities, they aren’t necessarily close to where the people who could actually use that data are. The Elm network aims to act to fill in the gaps in those systems, and to provide hyperlocal air quality data, at places where people can most benefit from the information.

“Elm delivers an interactive, map-based interface to air-quality data that’s relevant to people everywhere. For cities, Elm is the first platform to link environmental monitoring to real-time actions cities can take to improve public health, optimize urban planning and leverage science for the betterment of health. It’s dynamic, relevant and hyper-local, enabling everyone to be aware of the environment in your community – anywhere.” – PerkinElmer

The Elm sensors are small, rugged, have low power demands, and are said to be simple to deploy, so they can be installed wherever air quality is a concern, giving communities the ability to be able to precisely measure air quality across a number of different locations, not just those chosen for EPA sensor stations.

Having access to better data about the levels of potentially harmful pollutants in specific areas, and the patterns behind the measurements, could help cities make more informed decisions about growth, development, transportation, and zoning.

“As the world continues to face increasing airborne pollutants, we believe that Elm’s data service approach will be a valuable tool as cities seek to create healthier neighborhoods, from helping residents make wellness choices about where to live and when to spend their time outside, to carefully examining pollution trends, and even implementing more effective urban planning initiatives.” – Andrea Jackson, PerkinElmer VP Strategic Marketing, Environmental Health

In addition to making it much easier for cities to access air quality data, Elm can also help citizens make choices for their own schedules, in order to avoid poor air quality areas (or to avoid them during certain times of the day) or to choose places with cleaner air for their recreation needs.

You can view the data from the Boston pilot project of Elm here, or find out more about the devices and air quality sensor network at PerkinElmer. Along with the 25 sensors deployed in Boston, there are an additional 200 sensors installed at locations in 10 countries around the world.



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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!



  • GeorgeMokray

    MIT also has a real-time air quality network which was built by students at a cost of about $1200 per monitor. They have over 20 monitors across campus. More at http://clairity.mit.edu/site/html/

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