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IoT Technology Tracks Weather, Air Quality in Cities

Understory's Atmosphere solution, consisting of wireless weather and air-quality sensors, as well as cloud-based software and apps, is being tested in Dallas, with 10 other cities expected to have the technology in place by the end of this year.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 19, 2019

Technology company Understory is demonstrating its Internet of Things (IoT)-based solution to track air quality in Dallas, Texas, with plans to deploy the technology across approximately 10 other cities this year. The solution, known as Atmosphere, has been gathering data in Dallas for two months, linking air-quality measurements with weather patterns, down to a very specific area of the city. With that information, the company explains, a city can view what causes air-quality changes, from the passing of an aircraft to localized traffic congestion and wind patterns, then share that data with its residents. The cloud-based software can also provide recommended remediation steps to improve air quality.

The Wisconsin-based company was launched about six years ago by Alex Kubicek, now Understory's CEO, to provide automated, localized weather-pattern data. However, the firm found shortcomings in the data being collected through traditional methods. Most technologies, such as radar and satellite networks, look at the sky, he says. That left Understory short on the kind of data required for significant, actionable data. Without information regarding the conditions closer to the ground, Kubicek explains, "For localized system impact, you're operating in the dark."

The system enables cities to view what causes air-quality changes, such as wind patterns, and to share that data with residents.
The Atmosphere system, therefore, aims to provide highly granular weather data, down to small zones within a city, that can be accessed via its cloud-based software or an app. The solution consists of wireless sensor nodes that measure atmospheric force, monitoring such conditions as hail, rain drops and wind. The company provides that on-the-ground weather data to insurance companies and other customers, to help them understand when there may be damage in specific areas based on heavy weather.

Understory's Alex Kubicek
The firm's solar-powered, wireless device serves as a stainless-steel weather station with built-in hardware, provided by U.K. air-quality monitor technology company AQMesh. The weather-tracking system is also being used in the agricultural industry to capture weather measurements that can help businesses determine such information as when and how much to irrigate or spray crops.

Most recently, the company added the air-quality layer to the Atmosphere solution. "Air quality is incredibly dynamic," Kubicek states. "You really need to understand weather patterns pretty deeply to understand what is happening, minute by minute, on a 50- by 50-meter grid throughout the city." Thus, the latest version of Atmosphere measures and integrates data from the air-quality sensors, while also taking weather measurements.

"Now, when a city is taking action or implementing a policy around improving air quality," Kubicek says, "they can track results in real time and share with their constituents." Practically speaking, he adds, while climate change is an unmanageable challenge for a city or company, managing conditions in local areas is something cities can more easily accomplish.

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