Creativity against Air Pollution

Throughout time researchers have been trying to monitor air pollution and create urban pollution maps as precise as possible. This isn’t an easy task for a couple of reasons. Firstly, a lot of sensors are needed to be spread all around the city and then the researchers have to decide if the sensors will be stationary or will be mobile. Some clever and interesting projects to combat the air pollution with mobile Air Quality Monitors (AQMs) are.

The Pigeon Air Patrol

pigeon air patrol

A creative way for mobile Air Quality Monitors to be spread around the city. The pigeons wear a small device with O3, VOC and NO2 sensors. While they are flying around the city or sitting on a traffic light to rest, the sensors are constantly logging air quality data. The data will be later analysed by the researchers when the pigeons return to the base. This air monitoring campaign run for 3 days only and the pigeons are now back to their normal life.

More info at:


The Taxi Air Quality Monitors

taxi air monitoring

This innovate idea for monitoring urban air quality was made by James Puderer. The idea is to place Air Quality Monitors on top and inside the Taxis/Cabs sign and allow them to do their normal and daily trips around the city while they are logging air quality data. Basically it is an Android Things based data logger with a host of environmental sensors, GPS, and battery. In this project he uses temperature, humidity, pressure, and air-borne particulate PM10 – PM2.5 sensors.

More info at:

5th Graders Monitor Their Air Quality

kids school pollution.jpg

We all know how busy school roads can be, especially during peak hours when parents leave and pick up their kids from schools. Definitely the air quality is very bad during that time. Some universities, colleges and organizations have decided to track the air pollution from a different perspective by giving special backpack to some of the students, backpacks with a GPS and air quality sensors. Students are responsable to carry the backpack AQM with them and monitor the air quality. Later the experts will analyze the data that the students had logged on their backpack AQM.


Zooming out – NO2 Pollution

It hasn’t been a long time since one of the AQ monitors that I have, the uHoo, activated the NO2 sensor and helped me realize that the air quality isn’t so good regarding the levels of Nitrogen Oxide inside my house. I had to do some research and find out if the sensor was right and where this NO2 comes from.

Mainly, NO2 is produced by road traffic and energy production like power plants, with that in mind I began investigating. It wasn’t an easy possess, I had to consider many factors.

Firstly, I thought the source of this particular pollutant NO2 was the neighbors’ cars as early in the morning they will all go to work and some of them they will turn the engines on and they will wait till the engines are warmed up enough to set off. The buildings in my neighborhood create a U and cars are parked inside that U where the NO2 could be trapped temporally until it enters inside the houses, through the windows or escapes. Partly, I was right some spikes of NO2 were registered by the sensor at this time of the day. Source #1 was found but unfortunately the NO2 wasn’t high only at that time of the day, so I had to search further.

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 16.29.45
Buildings forming a U

Next, I analyzed the topography of my area. I had to find all the possible sources because I wanted to understand it as good as possible. A highway is very close to my neighborhood, about 650m but we are separated by a natural hill. I am not able to hear any road noise but I guess some pollution finds its way here depending the weather and wind conditions. Source #2


Screen Shot street no2
Highway A7

Then I had to see the greatest picture and with some further examination I was able to find all the factories / power plants in my region. There are quite many as you can see on the map below. My city Almeria doesn’t have as many factories as Sevilla for example but here is produced a enormous quantity of vegetables and fruit as a result the transportation is quite active. Source #3

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 12.04.16
Industries across Andalusia

Finally, the winds can bring a great amount of NO2 from as far as 300km away. As you can see from the animated GIF below, in Gibraltar were many boats enter into the Mediterranean sea a huge concentration of NO2 is created there. Source #4


no2 graph


By starting super locally inside my bedroom I was able to zoom out and see the whole picture of the air pollution and how it expands. It is amazing how the pollution can travel long distances and reach our lungs. This is the reason we have to raise awareness globally. Regarding the sensor, although the NO2 values that the sensor took weren’t very precise, due to the lack of calibration, the device was able to detect the fluctuations of the pollutant and alert me. This is a domestic or an office device and I think the results are expected because you can’t compare it with a laboratory instrument that cost thousands of dollars. The importance here is the value that the device will bring to the user, and it is substantial.

17 Air Quality Apps

Not everybody can afford an AQ Monitor or simply not everybody wants to spend money on a AQ Monitor. That’s fine because here are 17 Free/Paid apps for you to check the outdoor air quality in your area. Some of them can notify you when the Air Quality is poor and guide you on breathing cleaner air. Unfortunately some apps don’t support some regions, this is because some developers face difficulties to obtain data from local authorities. (The public air quality stations in my region suck!)

CALIOPE (Free) ♥♥♥


Caliope is an air quality forecast system for Spain, developed at Earth Sciences Department of the Barcelona Supercomputing Center – National Supercomputing Center (BSC-CNS). The app supports all Spanish regions and the website version supports most European countries. Available data O3, NO2, SO2, PM10 and PM2.5. Maps and Pollutants. The website is available in English and Spanish.

EPA AIRNow (Free) ♥


The EPA AIRNow was designed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Although the agency has access to all the US AQ stations and a huge amount of data, the app is plain and with a very poor design. There is nothing special about this app. Even the icons are pixelated. They should be ashamed, the app looks like an internet page from 1999.

AirVisual (Free) ♥♥♥♥♥


AirVisual provides a free app for their device Node/Pro but it also works without it.  You can have access on a huge amount of outdoor AQ Stations around the globe. With a history browsing for all the pollutants, maps, ranking and news. The data are from public stations but also from their devices around the globe.

Wunderground (ads) ♥♥♥♥


Wunderground is basically an advance weather forecast app but they also provide air pollution data if you are lucky enough, which means depending the weather station they use to get the data for your area. If the weather station in your area has air quality sensors then they will provide you with the data.

Plume (Free) ♥♥♥♥


Plume Labs has design this app to help people avoid air pollution. Their app offers an air pollution forecast. It is a simple but a complete app. You will see an Air Index at the home screen, weather conditions and the activities that they recommend you to do depending the air quality at that time. They use public AQ stations but they will also combine the data from their devices in the near future. It supports notifications.

CleanSpace (Free) ♥♥♥


CleanSpace focuses on Carbon Monoxide air pollution. On the home screen you can see the “current” air pollution from your device but if you don’t have a device you can also browser their air pollution map. They also provide some weather data from the local weather station. A bit limited on the pollutants.

Air Quality (Free) ♥♥♥♥

Air Quality

The app exist on the app store with 2 different icons but the same name, by the same developer and the same interface. It is a very nice app with plenty of data. The app has some nice animations and a clean design.

Airpocalypse (Free) ♥♥


This app is for the Chinese citizens because only supports Chinese cities. Super Clean design and some funny icons and quotes.

BreezoMeter (Free) ♥♥♥


BreezoMeter will help you get to the point of the air quality immediately. They support a map but the elephant will let you know if your outdoor air quality is safe and it will give you some advice. It will also tell you which is the dominant pollutant in your area.

Netatmo (Free) ♥♥


Netatmo is mainly a weather forecast app but it also provides some simple air quality data. Nothing fancy regarding the air data.

Air Bubbles (Free) ♥♥


The Air Bubbles app indicates the air quality with colour-coded bubbles. Not many info available.

Air Matters (ads) ♥♥♥♥♥

air matters

Air Matters provides air pollution data, weather data and allergy data. If you suffer from allergies from a specific tree or plant like mugwort or olive trees etc, it will provide you with all the useful data. History browsing is also available and maps. Very clean and good design.

Awair (Free) ♥♥


Awair has a small and basic tab with the outdoor air quality and weather conditions which allows you to compare them with the indoor air quality in case you  have their device.

Air Checker (ads) ♥

Air Checker

Air Checker is very simple, you just type your city and it tells you the air quality plus the pollutants. I compared the data with others and they didn’t correlate at all. So I am not very sure about the accuracy.

Aerium (Paid) ♥♥♥


Aerium is a weather forecast app but if you upgrade the free app it will also give you air quality info.

Kaiterra (Free) ♥♥♥


Kaiterra is a free app for the Laser Egg 2 but it also provides outdoor air quality data. Simple design with an AQI and a histogram for the air pollutants.

Foobot (Free) ♥



Foobot has a basic tab with the outdoor air quality index for the outdoor location of the indoor device.

Air Quality Monitors – Comparison 2017 Q4

Holidays are coming and people are searching for gifts or for ways to protect themselves from air pollution. A great way to start 2018 is by seeing the air around you. Once more new companies offer more choices to the costumers and the old ones offer mature products through solid updates. On this update I have removed the Design row and I have added the Application Programming Interface API row, for those who want to know if the companies support this feature. Click on the image and download the PDF document.

comparison air 2017 Q4


  • Prices may vary during time.
  • Some Companies don’t specify on their data sheet if their devices are capable to measure PM2.5 or PM10 and they just mention the word dust.
  • Some other companies say: Our product goes beyond CO₂ by analyzing substances that directly affect your well-being by measuring VOCs. They aren’t clear if their devices have CO₂ sensor.
  • Some of the devices are AQI Monitors and Air Purifiers Combo. On this list you can only read the features as an AQI monitor.

Wildfires and Air Pollution

The last few months and due to the lack of rain and the climate change some places in the world are facing extreme wildfires, most of the times manmade. Places like Galicia-Spain, Portugal and California-USA have been facing a great danger. The wildlife has been left without its habitat and humans without clean air. Unfortunately this kind of distraction creates enormous quantities of air pollution. A lot of times the air pollution spreads downwind from the fire source and even reaches other countries, so-called Cross Border pollution.

What kind of pollutants do the wildfires produce?

Mainly wood smoke contains a mixture of PM2.5, PM10 particles and various gases. More precisely wildfire smoke is a mixture of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds VOCs and a wide rage of particulate matter PMs that include ash, black carbon BC and organic carbon, such as Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons PAHs.

The smoke is a very complicated mixture of pollutants in the air, and it affects human health. It comes from lots of different sources, including trees, decomposed leaves, animals, forest litter and sometimes from local houses. Even the composition of the air pollution is depending on the way the smoke is created, for example by smouldering or flaming.

How to protect yourselves?

If you live close to a forest then ask your local authorities how you can help to protect the Earth’s lungs. If you happen to be near a wildfire/forest fire then remember to wear a N95 or N99 face mask. Don’t expose yourself in the smoke for a long time, even the face masks have a limit. If you live near an ongoing wildfire, close the windows and seal your house from the outdoor air. Stay away from your house for a few days, ask a family member who lives far away from the fire to host you.


I can’t stand reading or watching on TV news regarding wildfires. The damage is huge especially when humans are responsable for them. My heart breaks every time. Please respect the environment. Thank you.

DIY PM Monitor Take 2

Do you remember this DIY Low cost DIY PM Monitor, there is a new and better version available.

The new version offers a low cost housing and the software is more mature now. The software is open source, on github, and there are some pre-built images on their website.

A great new feature is the ability to store of a few days of data on the device which makes it more robust to internet outages and usable for periods away from wifi access, and it records every sample from the PMS5003 sensor which is more that one per second to better capture quick changes and better for mapping walking around.

You can find all the instructions on their website.

Why I am in favour of Air Quality Sensors

Why am I in favour of air quality sensors and I support all AQI monitors and sensors independently their price tag?

Because they help us literally See the Air. They are the only tools we can use to get hard evidence that air pollution exists and raise awareness. Someone could say that inaccurate and probably cheap sensors are useless and I will agree in some level but you have to keep in mind that not everyone can afford a +1000$ sensor. Those “cheap” sensors will allow people to discover what they breathe in some level, act on it and will make them more conscious about the pollution. I truly believe that sensors will shape future societies.

Sometimes when I talk to people about air pollution some of them don’t seem to understand that air pollution exists. They have never thought that the black smoke exiting a car is a harmful pollution. They have never thought that lighting the fireplace for a “cosy” moment has effects and consequences. They have never thought that air pollution is everywhere and can affect everyone.

When evidences are presented, people start to think and wonder. A fundamental action which distinguish humans from animals. At that moment people make a huge difference as human beings and the Oxygen that is consumed by them is not a waste. Education is the key to a better future.