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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

The Atmosphere system was installed throughout an area of Dallas measuring 150 square kilometers (60 square miles) approximately four years ago, with 10 or 15 weather sensors deployed around the entire area. The city's emergency-management department is using the data for public-safety purposes. Two months ago, the company added air-quality sensors that measure particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, dioxide and ozone levels, as well as the presence of sulfur dioxide. A high level of particulate matter might indicate that emissions from something like a coal-fired plant have accumulated in a specific area.

Nitrogen oxide and dioxide are emissions resulting from travel, such as from automobiles and airplanes. When sunlight or temperature extremes affect a plume of nitrogen oxide or dioxide gas, Kubicek says, ozone can result, and the Atmosphere sensors detect that event. As the devices collect data, they perform edge computing, then send relevant filtered data via a cellular or other wireless network connection. The devices are solar-powered and have 30 days' worth of storage capacity.

The system can show an increase in nitrogen oxide in areas where wind patterns direct the air.
The system integrates weather measurements with air-quality data to provide a picture of how such conditions may affect pollution within a small area. "By using the dynamic weather info," Kubicek says, the Atmosphere system can help cities identify sources of pollution under specific conditions, such as wind, sun or high temperatures.

Since the air-quality technology was installed in Dallas, the Atmosphere solution has enabled the company to understand how even single events can affect air quality. For instance, when an airplane takes off from an airport, the system shows an increase in nitrogen oxide in areas in which wind patterns are directing the air. "Air quality is incredibly local and shifts often," Kubicek explains, so the technology enables the city to understand that data.

To date, the company has provided its solution to commercial building owners, while cities are expected to be the target customers. At this point, Kubicek says, the technology is still being installed and tested as part of a program called Project Atmosphere, intended to demonstrate the value of the technology for cities. Those cities that adopt the technology would then use the measurements—captured, stored and analyzed on a dashboard—on a software-as-a-service basis. "We're talking to multiple cities in the United States and Europe," he adds, while Denver, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis and Kansas City already have the weather stations in place.

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