Vivergy Inventions: Wi-Fi Enabled Outdoor Air Quality Monitor

Air pollution, specifically particulate matter 2.5, can vary significantly over space and time. Although the EPA’s AirNow system is good in the sense that it has highly accurate monitors and releases the data hourly to the public, I was dissatisfied with its coverage in my area, the greater Boston area. There are 5 monitors that provide data to 4.7 million people… not very granular! Furthermore, this data is pretty impersonal- these monitors are not located in publicly visible places, and simply reporting an air quality value for a massive area is not going to make it feel very real to people after considering that air pollution is not in a high enough concentration to be visible here 95% of days.

So, I wanted to bring air pollution data down to a very human level so the average Boston resident could understand its relevance to their lives. My requirements for the monitor were:

  1. A technology that was proven accurate in independent testing for a reasonable price
  2. Live streaming to the web via Wi-fi for ease of sharing the data
  3. Weatherproof down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, able to withstand the Massachusetts winter
  4. Power and internet demands that were easily available in the US
  5. Minimal maintenance for ease of use by end-user
  6. 100% uptime, no interruptions in service by device.

The following instructions show how I built V1 for approximately $500. I settled on creating a system based around the following 3 technologies:

  1. Dylos DC 1100 Pro with PC interface (link)
  2. CanaKit Raspberry Pi w/ Wi-Fi (link)
  3. Primex P1000 weatherproof case (link)

Other things you will need:

-Reflectix Insulation (link)

-Velcro adhesives (link)

-Zipties

-Incandescent rope lights for heating (link)

-Trendnet Serial to USB cable (link)

-3 Way Wall Outlet Plug Adapter (link)

-Scissors

-Box cutter

 

And it looks like this:

20151204_112527

Here are 4 key resources I consulted to make this:

  1. Drexel senior design project, outdoor Dylos system (link)
  2. WorldAQI Build Your Own Wi-Fi Enabled Dylos Monitor (link)
  3. Outdoor Cat Enclosure, heated and insulated for cheap (link)
  4. Accuracy testing for Dylos monitor (link1)(link2)(link3)

Live experiment streaming currently at joinvivergy.com/schools

The heating method is needed for proper functionality of the Dylos. In order for the Dylos to read accurately, it needs to be at a temp above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, I aim for 40 degrees to be safe.

Part 1: Connecting Raspberry Pi to Dylos/ Wi-Fi Enabled

  1. Set up your Raspberry Pi with Raspbian OS, as provided
  2. Connect your Raspberry Pi to the Dylos with the Serial to USB cable.
  3. Download the PHP scripts from the WorldAQI project (link) to the Pi and follow included instructions. You are also going to want to set it up so that they run on startup of the Pi, instructions at that link as well. Furthermore, you may want to stream the results to your personal server if you want to manipulate the data yourself. Check line 82 of /dylos.php to change to destination of data.

Finished picture:

AirwatchOutdoors2

 

Part 2: Setting Up the Enclosure

Start by lining your Primex P1000 with insulation, attached with Velcro.

Bare enclosure

20151125_005519

Plan for velcro on Primex

PrimexSetup

And Reflectix Insulation

 

ReflectixBottom

ReflectixTop

Finished picture with velcro attached (minus second strip of velcro for attaching incandescent lights

20151201_220717

 

Part 3: Assembling pieces within enclosure

First, the lighting/heating. Coil the incandescent rope light into a loop that fits on the left side of enclosure, then use a zip tie to hold the form. Use two loops of Velcro to attach to the top, the attach to the two lines of Velcro “hooks” on top.

Diagram

Incandescentlightloopdiagram

 

Pic

20151204_112535

 

Second, everything else. It is going to be a tight fit. You need to add one strip of Velcro “loop” side along the bottom of the Pi, then one strip “loop” side at the top of the Dylos and one at the bottom.

 

Diagram

Boxlabeleddiagram

 

Pic

BoxDiagram

 

Make sure to remember to turn the Dylos on before putting it in place!

 

Got any questions/comments? Would love to hear ’em. Leave a comment or reach me at kevin (at) joinvivergy (dot) com.

Advertisements

Thanksgiving Pollution Review: It Ain’t Pretty, Folks

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel days of the year. So, we asked, could all of those cars on the road actually change air pollution levels for millions of Americans? We ran this analysis with the Share My Air real-time pollution map at joinvivergy.com/air. We also did a previous analysis of the pollution wave crossing the country in August due to the wildfires on the West Coast

In order to investigate, we looked at 5 cities on the Boston-Washington corridor (Boston, Providence, NYC, Philadelphia, Washington DC). This is where hundreds of thousands of drivers are on the road at a holiday time since all of the cities are within a reasonable driving distance for millions of residents. Then, we looked at 2 urban and 2 suburban air quality monitors at random in each metropolitan area, for a total of 20 monitors. In order to examine the impact of Thanksgiving travel, we looked at the entire holiday week (11/22-11/28), and noted the day with the highest particulate matter 2.5 levels.

And the results were… not great news for human health. Out of the 20 monitors sampled, 80% (16) experienced the most pollution on November 25, the day before Thanksgiving. This day was, on average, 5 ug/m3 higher than the weekly average. In other words, every man, woman and child within the Boston-Washington corridor was exposed to the equivalent of an extra 13 minutes in a sealed car with a smoker on that day (based on this sample).

So what can people do in the future to prevent this? The price of seeing your family for the holiday should not be an extra dose of pollution in 21st-century America. In this case, pollution is caused by personal vehicles, so families will have a lot of control over creating a healthier holiday next year. Two great solutions for this situation are public transit (train or bus) and electric vehicles. Both would allow families to promote clean air with their holiday travels.

Want to review the data yourself? Check out the Share My Air tool at joinvivergy.com/air.

–The Vivergy Team

Introducing AirWatch, The Outdoor Air Quality Monitoring Solution For Schools

watchdoglogotitle

Today, we are proud to announce the launch of AirWatch, our new complete solution for schools to measure air quality on their premises and live broadcast the results to students, parents and staff in real-time. With AirWatch, schools can not only get accurate air pollution readings at their school every minute, but also share these results in real-time through a user-friendly web interface.

So how exactly do we deliver this groundbreaking package?

AirWatch is composed of two parts.

  1. A Dylos Air Quality monitor hooked up to a Raspberry Pi for live streaming via Wi-Fi.

AirwatchOutdoors2

The Dylos DC1100 Pro is a highly accurate air quality monitor (source) that reads every minute, but there is just one issue- there is no good way to share those results! So, we hooked it up to a Rasberry Pi (microcomputer) with a Wi-Fi adapter so that the results can be shared widely in real-time.

Raspberry Pi Wifi

2. The AirWatch Site

AirWatchScreenshot

The AirWatch interface at joinvivergy.com/schools allows students, parents and teachers to easily browse the monitor’s readings and check out historical data. It also allows parents to share any actions they are taking to clean the school’s air.

Any school that has power and Wi-Fi (in other words, almost every school) is eligible. And by the way- we also translate the live readings into secondhand smoke equivalents, as always, so everybody can understand the readings.

Got questions or want to see this in your school? Email us at info (at) joinvivergy (dot) com!

–The Vivergy Team

Build Your Own (Accurate) Air Quality Monitor That Live Streams To The Web

Just came across an excellent guide from World AQI on how to build your own air quality monitor that streams data live from your location to the web.  Oh yeah, did I mention that it is super easy, accurate and only costs around $350?

All you need is:

-A Dylos air quality monitor with PC interface

-A Raspberry Pi

-Serial to USB cable

This setup will allow you to broadcast air quality from your location live to the internet, and even add it to the World AQI map in real time. The instructions and documentation are available on the World AQI blog. The Dylos has been independently reviewed by both the EPA and WAQI, and although it does not perform at a government-approved level, it gives excellent data accuracy for a device that costs less that $300. The only downside is that the Dylos is not weatherproof, but perhaps we will develop that next! An example of the findings on accuracy is below:

DylosProfile

If you want to check out mobile air quality monitoring options, check out our guide to the Airbeam!

–The Vivergy Team

How Bad is Idling Your Car REALLY?

tailpipeexhaust

We have all heard it plenty of times. Don’t idle your car! Children are breathing that exhaust! YOU are breathing that exhaust! But yet, when you show up to school or to the airport and you are just sitting there, surrounded by all the other people idling their cars… it becomes pretty darn hard to turn off the engine! So, how does idling REALLY affect air pollution, and what difference does turning off the engine really make?

Well, let’s take a quick look at the EPA statistics on driving versus idling to see how much pollution you can emit while idling your car. We will use NOx (nitrogen oxides) as the key pollutant to measure, since it is a major component of car exhaust. We will also only be looking at personal vehicles, or light duty passenger vehicles in EPA language. Two key facts: For every mile driven in a passenger vehicle, your car emits 0.69 grams of NOx. And for every minute of idling, your car emits about 0.059 grams of NOx.

Put more clearly:

1 mile driven in car = 0.69 g of NOx emitted

1 minute idling in car = 0.059 g of NOx emitted

So where the heck are we going with this? Let’s look at how the two compare. 1 mile of driving puts out about 12 times as much pollution as idling for a minute. So, if you sit there idling for 12 minutes, it is like driving 1 mile in your car!

Let’s paint a picture of this real quick. Another school day has ended, and there are a bunch of cars lined up waiting to pick up kids after finishing classes. BUT, instead of sitting still, they slowly circle the school at 5 miles per hour for 12 minutes, spewing out pollution from their tailpipes as they go. Of course, they do not want to turn their engines off, so they must keep circling and putting out pollutants. No parent would willingly circle a school for 12 minutes at a 5 MPH pace waiting for their child, because that would be a ridiculous waste when you could just be sitting still. Can you imagine running into parents at a school and having them wave at you as they go by, saying “Just doing my laps before the kids get out!” Furthermore, school administrators would be outraged that parents had gotten there early just to drive in a circle and put pollution into their school’s environment for kids to breathe!

The bottom line: it may not feel like anything is happening when you are sitting there, hanging out in an idling car, but the reality is that sitting in an idling car is just like driving around slowly and putting out pollution needlessly as you wait for the person you want to pick up. And all you have to do is take out the key when you are waiting for 30 seconds or longer, and the problem is solved!

(or buy an electric car) 🙂

This one feels like it is going to need a video to accompany it. Look out for one in the next couple weeks!

Sources:

http://www3.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/420f08024.pdf

http://www3.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/420f08025.pdf

Image credit: http://www.theenvironmentalblog.org/

–The Vivergy Team

UK Countries Ban Smoking In Car With Children, But No Action On Air Pollution (Yet!)

SmokerCar

Yesterday, England and Wales banned smoking in a car containing children under 18 years old, regardless of whether windows are opened or not. The crime is punishable by a fine of 50 pounds. The news follows studies that showed that smoking in a car leads to concentrations of particulate matter that could be 10 times higher than concentrations in bars which allow smoking.

Following the lead of California, as well as some parts of Australia and Canada, the law is meant to protect children, whose developing lungs are especially sensitive to airborne particulates and can experience asthma attacks due to acute exposure, and stunted development due to chronic exposure. The law is also meant to reinforce the social unacceptability of smoking while around children. Secondhand smoke sends almost 10,000 children to the hospital each year in the UK.

While this is an excellent step for the 400,000+ children in the UK that currently spend time in a car with a smoker once a week, the UK government should also consider the particulates that 100% of British children are exposed to 24 hours a day due to ambient air pollution. Let’s examine London. Approximately 2.15 million people under the age of 18 live in the city. The average particulate matter level for the year 2014 was 14 ug/m3, which is equal to spending 40 minutes each day in a sealed car with a smoker. This means that 2 million plus children are inhaling that much pollution every day, even after the smoking legislation! And we are simply talking about London, where 9,500 people die per year due to air pollution. Want to learn how to do these calculations yourself? This resource will teach you.

Now, air pollution is not quite as easy to solve as simply banning smoking in a car – it is a complex system that requires leadership from government, industry and individuals. But, if smoking in a car is so offensive that legislators deem that it should be banned, they should also consider laws which lessen dirty fuel use, because 100% of children under 18 are forced to inhale the pollutants that come from these sources.

–The Vivergy Team