This article by Wired Magazine shows two approaches to sensing air pollution (specific carbon and nitrogen gasses) and how they can work together.

The first approach is to put sensors on a Google street view cars and have them drive around the city of Oakland. The research found that driving past a specific spot about 20 times a year can give a good impression of the day-to-day pollution by for instance traffic in that particular place. At first they used expensive gear to measure pollutants and they started testing a lot less expensive sensors later as well. Turns out that these inexpensive sensors do a good job as well. It might be a good idea to start adding these kind of sensors to buses, taxis and other vehicles that drive around cities most of the day. This will give a sense of changes in pollution levels and indication of a potential problem.

The second approach is to put sensors on roofs of public buildings and start measuring from a static perspective. These sensors can sense more pollutants than the mobile ones. They can help in pinpointing sources of air pollution more accurately (using triangulation) and when combining with the other sensors and measuring units in the area they help forming a detailed map of the air quality.

A Race to Develop Pollution Sensing Tech Plays Out in Oakland

All this crazy, stupid driving paid off in another way. The maps were so detailed that they displayed little hot spots of high pollution, specific intersections with five to eight times more pollution than their surrounding neighborhoods. “When we see a hotspot, we actually can investigate why, because we’ve got an incredible camera on the roof of the car,” Apte says.

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