Socialcops, a technology data company, has launched a mobile pollution data network project, by integrating low cost mobile IoT devices on five rickshaws. The devices consist of an airborne particle sensor, a GPS unit and a cellular antenna to beam back the data, and cost around Rs 6,500 each.
The idea behind the technology is to get better PM10 air quality data in realtime. As such the device reports back two readings per minute, which with 5 devices, can add up to 600 data points over an hour. The uptime of these devices is upto 12 hours, or the average amount of time rickshaw drivers spend driving their vehicle.
The hardware: Socialcops uses a basic LinkIt One prototype board along with a case and external power bank as the sensor. The sensor is instructed to “sample data from the pollution sensor for 30 seconds, calculate the particles per .01 cubic foot from these values, retrieve the GPS location, upload the data to the server, and repeat.”
The company uses this data to provide an AQI (Air Quality Index), which usually includes calculating the impact of pollutants like particulate matter, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb. However for now, the company only uses particulate matter (PM10 only) to measure pollution levels, likely to avoid the cost of specialized sensors.
Making sense of data: Gathered sensor data is freely mapped out by Socialcops on its website and updated on an hourly basis. Users can select between sensor 1 and 5, and the date, to display the number of data points in a particular area. Zooming in breaks these down further area wise, giving users a detailed picture of how many samples were collected there.
The pollution levels are displayed separately on the website in a bar graph form. This displays the AQI level at the given time as well as the data collected over the past 12 hours and over the past week. According to the company, the pollution levels in the city of Delhi hovered around 350 throughout the week, basically a ‘very poor’ rating.
MediaNama’s take (Nikhil adds)
- Incomplete data: Socialcops’ device only works for PM10 pollution, and does not record PM2.5 or other pollutants in the atmosphere. Especially in Delhi, PM 2.5 has been a major source of pollution.
- Incomplete coverage: given that auto rickshaws ply mostly through the day, and the data from SocialCops covers only 5 autos, there is lack of reliable data during the time period that the autos do not ply, typically at night, when the pollution levels are much higher.
- Unreliable data: Going through the data, there appears to be a significant swing in pollution levels, which is highly unlikely. The chart below shows a drop from 335 at 10PM to 110 at 11PM. A couple of days ago, when we checked, the data spiked up in the middle of the afternoon (at 2pm), at a time when API levels have typically been at their lowest, and gradually moving up.
At present, there are other indicators in the market which are based on static meters (rather than moving devices stuck on auto rickshaws), such as this from IndiaSpend and this from the Hindustan Times.
However, the initiative provides a good idea about what sort of impact we can expect IoT to have in the coming years. It will be relatively trivial to develop a new device, at slightly higher the cost, but with more sensors to gather more data. We fully expect eventually most cities to be covered with sensors of all sorts; to record pollution, check clean drinking water, to manage traffic etc.