Toronto could use next-gen sensors to tackle air pollution

By pauline cameron

Engineers from Scentoid discuss the use of drone and vehicle mounted sensors to monitor air quality across the city in real time

A new form of next-gen sensors dubbed “Super Sniffers”, combined with mass data processing, could be used to identify sources of odour and pollution throughout Toronto, according to experts at a conference for air quality held from 19-20 September 2019.

The third Air & Odour Conference and Technology Showcase took place at Hart House at the University of Toronto and had several new systems to showcased by leading industry developers. Scentroid was one such developer to specialise in manufacturing air quality control and analysis sensors. Omid Youssefi is a research and development engineer at Scentroid and a recent graduate from the University of Toronto, who spoke about the difficulties of current monitoring stations. "We need enough mobile stations that can be mounted on buildings or poles near schools or other locations of interest to measure the air quality and pollution levels in many locations," he said.

Youssefi discussed the possibility of mounting sensors on public-service vehicles, such as police cruisers and having drone mounted efforts spanning across the city and collecting data on air quality. This data could then be processed in real time to allow for meaningful analysis of air borne pollutants and carbon monoxide levels.

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Youseffi went on to explain that the information could be used by citizens to determine and avoid pollution hotspots. "Say you are bicycling down the road and you are breathing in lots of air and you want to know what's in the air."

Research from the World Health Organisation now estimating that air pollution alone contributes to the deaths of 7mn people each year and according to Toronto based health officials the city suffers fatalities numbering in the hundreds every year. Speaking on the subject of air quality in Toronto, Stephanie Gower of Toronto Public Health said: "In the city of Toronto, the latest figures we have is that air pollution contributes to 1,300 premature deaths and 3,500 hospitalizations each year," later adding: "I think at the end of the day, the better the evidence we have the more we have an understanding of what interventions will work the best in terms of improving air quality and improving health."

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