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UK local authority uses AQMesh for cost-saving NO2 monitoring network

28-Feb-2024Accuracy | Hybrid networks | Local authorities | Networks | PerformanceUK

UK local authority uses AQMesh for cost-saving NO2 monitoring network

A UK local authority installed nine AQMesh systems at different points across a busy town, measuring nitrogen dioxide (NO2) at 15 minute intervals, monitoring 24/7. These locations were established monitoring points, where measurements had been taken previously using diffusion tubes, limited to one average reading every few weeks.

AQMesh – in common with all lower cost air quality systems – can provide near real-time air quality information, with high frequency measurements that allow daily and weekly patterns to be seen. However such systems are not certified, as are reference stations or diffusion tubes. As a result, AQMesh readings need to be ‘calibrated’ against certified readings, at some point in the network, to provide confidence in data accuracy and traceability to an approved standard.

Typically such ‘calibration’ is carried out by mounting at least one AQMesh ‘pod’ very close to a reference station, so pod and reference are sampling the same air and readings can be compared. However this approach does require staff to move pods from position to position, which can be time-consuming and therefore costly. An alternative approach was used for this network, similar to the one developed by the University of Cambridge and used in a major project in London (Breathe London pilot). One of the authority’s reference stations (location in red on map) was used to ‘calibrate’ the network of pods and the other (location in green on map) was used to cross-check network accuracy.

AQMesh network deployment (BELOW): AQMesh locations marked in blue, reference station used for calibration in red, reference station used for control co-location in green

The four-month project demonstrated that the AQMesh network showed that stakeholders could have the same high confidence in readings when the network was calibrated remotely as when pods were co-located for calibration (the gold standard for this technology), but with significant savings in field support and reduced data loss.

Six hidden costs to look out for when choosing a small sensor air quality monitoring system

14-Feb-2024Construction | Environmental | Fenceline | Industrial | Local authorities | Mining | Networks | Oil & Gas

Six hidden costs to look out for when choosing a small sensor air quality monitoring system

Anybody in the market for purchasing a small sensor air pollution monitoring system will need to consider budgets, but it’s not always obvious how the products being reviewed actually compare across their full operational life. A small sensor air quality monitoring system or network can be a significant purchase, so whether project-based or with ongoing monitoring in mind, it is likely that the equipment will be in use for several years. There are six main areas of cost highlighted here, all of which kick in after initial purchase.

Without direct experience of a product, it’s natural that the focus is on the initial price tag, but that may only reveal part of the total cost. The weeks or even months spent researching products is a fraction of the time – up to 10 years – of expected product use and experience. A typical timeline of product experience will start pre-sale and run through installation, project set-up and data access arrangements, data quality assurance, planned and unplanned maintenance, co-locations and re-locations, updates, upgrades, reconfiguration, and so on. How much will you have spent – directly or indirectly – by the end of the product’s life?

Over the product’s span of operation, hidden costs can include:

  1. ‘Boots on the ground’ – field staff for installation, co-location, maintenance, repairs, product replacements, and so on. Some of this will be essential, but it can add huge cost if uncontrolled, particularly if units are installed far away from the team’s base.
  2. Consumables – sensors need to be replaced periodically, but how often and at what cost? Some systems require that sensors are replaced after a short time, can only be replaced as part of a multi-sensor cartridge, are very expensive, or a combination of these.
  3. Data services – whilst the charge is to cover the real cost of data processing and storage (not access), annual data prices vary considerably and add up over the years.
  4. SIM – an annual charge for a global SIM to connect the unit to a server is often cost-effective and convenient, but charges vary. This may depend on where in the world the unit is installed, but it’s worth checking prices and whether you have the option to use a local SIM, if that would be cheaper.
  5. Support – what is included in support? Is it limited in any way? Ask for examples of committed support of networks in challenging situations, well after year one.
  6. Length of warranty – this is a clear commitment from the manufacturer of what you should expect from their product: putting their money where their mouth is.

We have worked out that for two of the most popular AQMesh models (or specification) other products may be as much as 29% cheaper than AQMesh at initial purchase, but that flips to 31% to 70% more expensive overall – including the initial purchase – after five years of use. This is based on quoted consumables, data and SIM costs, so there may be even more indirect costs that we have not included in our calculation. Whilst these additional costs can possibly be accommodated within budgets for a small number of pods, hidden costs can scale at a rather alarming rate for larger networks.

It’s also worth checking how much flexibility you may have in the future:

  • You may only be able to renew data services if you purchase replacement sensors
  • Support may be limited in some way
  • You may not be able to use a SIM of your choice

Your expectation of the product life may be different to the manufacturer’s, and that can apply in both directions. We have been asked to quote AQMesh pods, which we expect to function happily for 10 or more years, by customers who really want to buy a disposable product for a short project. If that is the case, rental is a great option. With all costs wrapped up into a single price, from three months to years at a time, costs are totally predictable and full support ensured, right through to free product replacement, should it be required.

AQMesh pods, with their robust and proven design, are expected to function in the field with minimal intervention for at least 10 years. The pods automatically come with a 5 year manufacturers’ pod warranty. We commit to – and deliver – lifetime remote support, included in the price. Remote firmware and gas processing algorithm upgrades come as part of any purchase, ensuring pods can always be updated to latest and improved versions for free.

The pods are designed to be user-serviceable, meaning only consumable components need to be replaced, rather than expensive cartridges which add cost through packaging and electronics. Consumables and yearly contracts can be purchased up front – with the initial pod order – ensuring visibility and security when it comes to future costs and maintenance, as well as appropriate discounts. Practical maintenance videos ensure that any time spent by your team is as efficient as possible, so you can plan ahead with resources and avoid unexpected demands. The team at AQMesh have been supporting pods in remote locations for over a decade, learning from our experiences along the way to ensure you get the right support exactly when you need it.

A checklist for buying small sensor air quality systems

19-Jun-2023Construction | Consultants | Fenceline | Industrial | Local authorities

A checklist for buying small sensor air quality systems

If you are considering – or are at the point of buying – a system for local monitoring of air pollution, we have used our decade of experience to offer lists of points to consider. Why more than one list? The critical issues around air quality monitoring vary depending on your project, so we have prioritised points for a range of applications. We hope we have included yours, but please contact us if we can help further.

Government and local authorities

Budgets are the killer, so lifetime cost needs to be low and predictable, as well as having a competitive initial purchase price. In our experience, local authorities often run equipment year after year, so upgrades and other re-specification options are very budget-friendly if priorities change: why buy again if your system can evolve with your needs? Another great way to help the budget go further is to look at fixed price, all-inclusive rental options, particularly if there is the flexibility to roll on after the initial term with a rental or buy the equipment through a final top-up payment. Once the equipment is in place, it needs to be maintained – critically including data quality management – without demanding scarce field resources or incurring call-out charges. But at the end of the day it is vital to have traceable data, so ask about how that can be achieved.

Industrial fence line

If you need to know about pollutant exceedances on and around your site, you need them 24/7/365, or maybe even 60/24/7/365, so reliability and data up-time are critical. There are many things to look out for which can reduce reliability, including poor product design for the conditions, poor manufacturing quality, poor data connections and often lack of a reliable power supply. Ideally power supply and comms infrastructure are autonomous and it’s hard to beat the combination of a clever solar charging system that’s tuned to your latitude and access to the mobile phone network that dominates in your area.

With many industrial sites located potentially hundreds of miles away from the air data management team, the ability to remotely diagnose problems – and fix them – is vital, if data is not to be lost. And what information is needed? Real-time measurements at different locations, particularly combined with wind speed and direction information, provide valuable insights about pollution sources, and often a reliable exceedance alert is what is required on an ongoing basis. Of course, any sensitive information about air pollution around a facility must be kept completely confidential and accuracy will need to be demonstrated through traceability to an approved standard.

Research and consultancies

A wide range of measurements and configuration flexibility are helpful, as are short and long-term rental options. Critically, data must be secure and private, quality assured and proven to be accurate and repeatable.

Transportation

From a train carriage to an airport runway, road junction or port facility, installation must be easy for the local team, with minimal maintenance: no unexpected calls for contractors to carry out work, taking time and costing money. Air quality measurements must be continuous, with no down time, if patterns and brief episodes of high pollution are to be recorded.

Construction

Measurements – usually dust – are being taken for a reason, so the measurement system must comply with the specified standard, eg: MCERTS. Once that box is ticked, it is essential that readings are recorded continuously and reliably. Particulate matter can cause various frustrations, including potential over-readings due to moisture, so it’s important that the system has been designed to provide reliable readings which are fit for purpose. We have seen some astonishing things happen to equipment on construction sites, so choose a system that can handle itself: its own power supply, communications, and ability to cope with a few knocks, vibration, dust and mitigation systems. Measurements must be reliable – and regularly proven against a standard – and delivered in a way that works for site management, such as meaningful alerts (without false alarms).

Budget-friendly AQMesh package announced for Local Authorities applying for government funding

05-Aug-2022Local authoritiesUK

Budget-friendly AQMesh package announced for Local Authorities applying for government funding

With local councils in England being encouraged to apply for a share of a £7m grant scheme dedicated to ‘reduce the impact of air pollution on public health’, the big question still remains – how can local authorities mitigate air pollution without carrying out hyperlocal monitoring to understand where the problem areas are and identify the pollution sources? AQMesh – the most proven small sensor air quality monitoring station – has tailored a package specific to local councils to not only help answer this very important question, but also make the most of any budgets dedicated to tackling air pollution.

The dedicated package includes two AQMesh pods measuring NO, NO2, O3 and PM, two smart solar packs for autonomous power anywhere, along with data, SIM and replacement sensors included for four years, providing a cost saving of over 10%. AQMesh’s 2022 prices are already up to 25% more cost-effective over a four year period than those of other small sensor manufacturers, which means this time-limited offer provides an excellent opportunity for local authorities applying for government funding to receive a no-hassle, all-in-one price to improve their air quality monitoring capabilities.

AQMesh is designed, developed, sold and fully supported from its Stratford-upon-Avon factory and office. The small sensor air quality monitoring system has been proven globally including extensively across the UK, in a wide range of real-world environments and conditions. The team at AQMesh are the most experienced in the small sensor market, having supported numerous air quality networks over the last 10 years, including the ground-breaking Breathe London pilot.

After the end of the 4-year support package users will continue to own the pods outright and benefit from the team’s ongoing unrivalled customer support, demonstrable product performance and proven product longevity. All AQMesh pods come with a free 5 year manufacturer’s warranty, free of charge remote diagnostics, unlimited remote firmware and gas algorithm upgrades and our industry-leading remote technical support, included for life in the purchase price.

The closing date for local councils to apply for the share of a £7m grant is 23rd September 2022, and the dedicated 4-year support package from AQMesh will be available until 9th December 2022. To find out more and discuss your options please contact the AQMesh team today.

AQMesh shows the air quality impact of COVID town centre pedestrianisation

03-Nov-2021Local authoritiesUK

AQMesh shows the air quality impact of COVID town centre pedestrianisation

A UK local authority measured the difference in local air pollution levels when reopening roads that had previously been closed for social distancing purposes as part of Covid-19 mitigation efforts.

One of the major roads through the busy town centre had been closed during lockdown, with the centre’s main bus stops also relocated from their usual location on an adjoining road. The pedestrianisation of parts of the town centre had originally been to allow for social distancing, however the reduction in traffic has shown that the road closures could be a good mitigation strategy for local pollution.

10 AQMesh pods were deployed across the town centre, measuring NO, NO2, O3 & PM at key locations before and after July 19th when all COVID restrictions were lifted, the road reopened and the original bus stops were reinstated.

Once the usual traffic through the area resumed, pollution levels for NO, NO2 and PM2.5 were seen to increase compared to the monitoring period during the closures. Average levels of NO2 were 1.4 times higher, with average levels of NO being 13 times higher and PM levels 2.9 times higher. Additionally, the pods saw no elevated pollution levels on the routes and bus stops to which traffic was diverted during closures.

This short-term AQMesh rental solution provides a good example of the impact that traffic reduction has on local air quality and how road closures can be used as an effective pollution intervention method.

Clean Air Day 2021: Local authorities use AQMesh to study air quality on school streets

17-Jun-2021Clean Air Day | Local authorities | Schools | UrbanUK

Clean Air Day 2021: Local authorities use AQMesh to study air quality on school streets

AQMesh has partnered with Warwick District Council and Stratford District Council to install air quality monitoring pods at six local primary schools, as part of this year’s national Clean Air Day.

AQMesh loaned 10 of its air quality monitoring systems to two local councils to be installed at the entrances of five schools across Warwick and Leamington Spa, with a further two installed at a primary school in Stratford-upon-Avon. The data from the pods will be used to show how pollutant levels vary throughout the day and could encourage parents to use alternative methods of travelling to school instead of driving.

Led by Global Action Plan, Clean Air Day takes place in the UK each year to bring communities and organisations together to help raise awareness and improve public understanding of air pollution, what causes it, how harmful it is and what can be done to reduce it. This year’s Clean Air Day is Thursday 17th June and will be focused on pollution’s impact on children, with the campaign’s key message being ‘Let’s protect our children’s health from air pollution’.

Councillor Christopher Kettle, Community Protection Portfolio Holder at Stratford District Council, said: “Stratford District Council is committed to supporting national Clean Air Day on June 17 to improve, in particular, air quality around schools. School pick-up and drop-off are some of the busiest times for local traffic – leaving the car at home can cut congestion, improve air quality and improve health.” Whilst Councillor Judy Falp, Portfolio Holder for Health and Community Protection at Warwick District Council added: “Contrary to popular belief, switching off your engine does not use more fuel or cause issues with the engine. It’s important for us all to be consciously aware of the little changes we can make that will have a big impact on the air quality in Warwick district.”

Jon Queralt, Associate Headteacher of Emscote Infant School, who have one of the pods outside their main entrance, also says: “We hope this will encourage families to give the car a day off and to walk, cycle or scoot to school whenever possible. As an eco-school we have always focused on teaching the importance of being environmentally aware by encouraging the children to walk to school, turn off the tap, switch off the lights and recycle. By having the air monitor installed and explaining to the children how it can help us to look after our environment, we can start to make even bigger changes which we hope will lead to a better quality of life and health for our community as a whole.”

AQMesh has been used in a number of similar school studies over the years to raise awareness about the effects of pollution on children’s health, particularly on how harmful idling engines can be during school drop-off and collecting times. For example, four AQMesh pods are currently installed around schools in Kitchener, Canada: the results of the study will hopefully encourage more parents to walk or cycle to school, or turn to electric cars, and the City of Kitchener may also consider implementing new idling laws. 22 AQMesh pods are also deployed outside schools across Newcastle, UK, that are located next to major roads. Newcastle City Council want to raise awareness of air quality issues and encourage fewer car journeys to and from school.

Recently, 30 AQMesh pods were used to carry out a study of schools throughout London, UK, as part of the Mayor’s ‘Streetspace for London’ plan. Based on the approach used in the Breathe London pilot network, AQMesh pods were installed to investigate the benefits of a new ‘School Streets’ initiative. The plan involved monitoring pollutant levels where sections of roads would be closed at certain times of the school day and comparing them with the levels at sites where the roads were not closed. Data from the AQMesh pods demonstrated that road closures at some of the school sites contributed to a 34% reduction in nitric oxide (NO) and a 23% reduction in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) during the morning drop-off period. The full report from that study can be found here.

In the UK alone it is estimated that poor air quality causes around 36,000 deaths each year, with that figure rising to seven million globally. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognises that pollution is the largest environmental health risk the population faces. Long-term exposure to NO2 can cause and worsen asthma, particularly in children, and fine particle matter (PM2.5) can penetrate deep into the lungs and reduce lung development and reduce function. AQMesh is committed to supporting initiatives around the world to help measure, manage and mitigate global air pollution and its impact on people’s – particularly children’s – health.

Amanda Billingsley, Managing Director of AQMesh comments: “An appreciation of how much air pollution varies around schools – over time and short distances – can help us protect children from the highest pollution in the short-term, while we all work to raise awareness of causes of pollution and how to improve air quality in the longer term. We hope that this practical project will have an impact in and around the schools involved while we continue to engage at a wider level with global projects and the sophisticated analysis required to fully understand local and regional air pollution and how to reduce exposure.”

AQMesh monitors the impact of new Oxford shopping centre on local air quality

09-Jan-2018Baseline study | Construction | Local authoritiesUK

AQMesh monitors the impact of new Oxford shopping centre on local air quality

Oxford City Council has been managing two AQMesh pods, supplied by Air Monitors Ltd, in order to monitor the impact the new Westgate centre is having on local air quality.

Westgate Oxford is a brand new £440m shopping centre comprising of retail outlets, restaurants and a cinema, and was developed as a replacement to the old shopping centre that was demolished in 2016. Having recently opened in October 2017, it estimates it will attract 15m visitors every year.

The AQMesh pods were purchased by the Westgate developer under a Section 106 agreement to monitor levels of NO, NO2 and O3. Oxford City Council’s Air Quality officer, Pedro Abreu, has been using them to supplement information available from other sources. Because the pods are battery-powered they can be mounted at exactly the point in centre where monitoring is required, and easily moved to a new monitoring location when necessary. Pedro Abreu carried out co-location comparisons with a reference station and is very satisfied with the correlations he has seen with the AQMesh pods he is using.

His comments echo those of Professor Rod Jones from the University of Cambridge, who led a project using AQMesh pods across Cambridge to demonstrate how air quality varies across the city. “Because we know that all the pods read the same and because we have a comparison between one pod and a reference instrument, we can say that all pods are working equivalently across the city. What we are seeing is correspondences in excess of 0.7, 0.8, against reference – and that is very good for something straight out of the box”, commented Professor Jones.