Conference

Recap of Making Sense of Air Sensors Conference

I attended the Making Sense of Sensors conference in the Los Angeles area on September 27-28, hosted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), California Air Pollution Control Officers Association (CAPCOA), and Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). This well-run conference brought together over 350 people from government agencies, academia, small and large companies, and community groups, and even more attended online (agenda with indexed video links and presentations below).

This event was the ideal forum for sharing the latest information about air quality sensors and catching a glimpse of this emerging technology in action. Cutting-edge talks, panel sessions, and posters covered the current state of sensor technology, radiation networks, sensing pollutants from volcanoes to urban air, sensor systems from PurpleAir to AirBeam, open data and big data, data visualizations, key takeaways, and much more.

If you missed it or couldn’t attend, I’ve summarized the major themes of the conference below.

Passion and collaboration. With more than 350 attendees and hundreds more on the webcast, this meeting demonstrated the clear and growing interest in air sensors. Government agencies are now using and exploring the use of air sensors like never before—Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is installing a 50-site network and SCAQMD used PurpleAir sensors to track smoke from wildfires. Community and clean air groups continue to use air sensors to further their mission. For example, Luis Olmedo (Comite Civico del Valle) and Paul English (CA Dept. of Public Health) showed the value of PM sensors in their IVAN network in southeast California and informing the community with color-coded maps and email alerts. And large companies, like Weather Underground and Microsoft, are exploring various applications for air sensor data.

    

Increasing pilot and proof-of-concept projects. Organizations are deploying larger networks across the globe to determine how these new sensors can address old world problems. Some projects sought to augment existing networks like the BEACO2N network (poster) in northern California. Smart City projects in Baltimore, MD, and Lafayette, LA, illustrated a rising interest in deploying air sensors in dense urban environments. Elsewhere, other networks are simply growing much larger; in Taiwan, for example. Academia Sinica and National Taiwan Normal University created a participatory urban sensing framework of over 3,000 sites measuring PM, while the Industrial Technology Research Institute is testing sensors for an even larger network of over 10,000 sensors in Taiwan (poster).

Quality matters. With more organizations buying and using air sensors, striving for better sensor performance is critical. Fortunately, many organizations are addressing the issue of quality. Jesse Kroll (MIT) showed very good results for SO2 sensors from Hawaii. Sean Boner (Safecast) reflected on how the Air Quality Egg’s poor performance damaged trust in citizen science. R. Subramanian (Carnegie Mellon University) discussed how they used a machine learning (random forest) approach to increase the quality of data from gas sensors. Nick Masson (QSense) recommended that calibration be applied in the cloud, not on the edge (on the sensor system itself). And with the Air Quality Sensor Performance Evaluation Center (AQ-SPEC) offering tours of the sensor test and evaluation equipment for all participants, quality was a focal point of the conference.

AB-617 is gathering strength to improve air quality throughout CaliforniaThere was a great deal of discussion about this major new law in CA, which would require the state to develop a plan for reporting criteria air pollutant and toxic air contaminant emissions. As yet, there are few details about the monitoring technologies to be used and location selection criteria for community air monitoring systems. As Veronica Eady (CARB) mentioned, “The more deeply the community is involved, the greater confidence they will have in the data.”  Stay tuned.

Not so low-cost networks. While an individual sensor does not cost much relative to regulatory instruments, the costs for a network of 10, 100, or 500 low-cost sensors are substantial when you consider data produced, logistics (site visits, repairs), and interpretation. Andrea Polidori of SCAQMD said, “What starts as a local sensor project very quickly becomes a high-cost network development project… if you have more than 100 sensors you’re going to incur costs.” 

 

 

“So what?” Figuring out what air quality problems sensors solve is the next major step for the community to address. Several presenters pointed out that we need to answer the questions “So what?” “Now what?” and “Who can change this?” Christa Hasenkopf (OpenAQ) discussed this “so what gap” and provided examples of how people use OpenAQ to calibrate sensor data, compare data from different regions, and use real-time data for wildfire modeling. Wayne Nastri (SCAQMD Executive Director) addressed the “so what” in his closing remarks (link). Joe Lyou of Coalition of Clean Air encouraged us to think about a different model; instead of a regulatory approach of “permit, regulate, and enforce,” can we use the new technologies to “observe, report, and fix”?

This growing interest in air quality sensing is a game changer for air quality management, community groups detecting local conditions, and increasing public engagement. I and others are looking forward to more workshops, conferences, and interactions to make this happen.

 

 

Conference agenda with video links

 

Agenda for Making Sense of
Sensors Conference

with video and presentations links

Speaker

Title

Organization

Presentation Title

Video

Presentation

Wayne Nastri

Executive Officer

South Coast AQMD

Welcoming remarks

YouTube

 

Jack Broadbent

Executive Officer

Bay Area

 AQMD

Welcoming remarks

YouTube

 

Alan Abbs

Executive Director

CAPCOA

Welcoming remarks

YouTube

 

Dr. William Burke

Chairman

South Coast AQMD

Opening Comments

YouTube

 

Kourosh Karimkhany

General Manager

Weather Underground 

Building a global sensor
network

YouTube

 PDF
(2.0 MB)

Tim Dye

President and CEO 

TD Environmental Services

State of air sensors
Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow

YouTube

 PDF
(1.5 MB)

Andrea Polidori,
Ph.D.

Atmospheric Measurements
Manager

South Coast AQMD

Evaluation of
“low-cost” sensors for measuring gaseous and particle air
pollutants: Results from three years of field and laboratory testing

YouTube

PDF
(3.7 MB) 

Stephen Feinberg, Ph.D.

Research Fellow

U.S. EPA

Real-world evaluation and
application of emerging air sensing technologies

YouTube

PDF
(2.4 MB)

Jesse Kroll, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

MIT

Air quality sensor networks
near pollution hotspots: Measuring volcanic SO
2 levels on the island of
Hawai’i

YouTube

 PDF
(1.5 MB)

Sean Bonner

Co-Founder, Director of
Global Operations

Safecast

Better than a bag of bricks

YouTube

PDF
(83.7 MB) 

Michael Heimbinder
<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

Executive Director

HabitatMap

Who is AirCasting and why?

YouTube

PDF
(21.5 MB)

Adrian Dybwad
<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

Owner and CEO

PurpleAir

Building a robust, low-cost,
community-based PM sensor network
 

YouTube

 PDF
(0.6 MB)

Brian Miles, Ph.D.

Senior Consultant

CGI Federal

LEaRN: Lafayette engagement and
research network & the EPA smart city air challenge

YouTube

 PDF
(4.4 MB)

 Anna Scott
<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

Ph.D. student

Johns Hopkins University 

Using citizen science, IoT & open hardware to measure air quality in
Baltimore
 

YouTube

 PDF
(24.2 MB)

Christa Hasenkopf,
Ph.D.

<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

Co-Founder, Atmospheric
Scientist

OpenAQ 

OpenAQ: Fighting air
inequality through open data community

YouTube

PDF
(1.9 PM) 

Nicholas Masson

Founder

QSense  

 Environment
monitoring & the “Big Data” revolution

YouTube

 PDF
(2.0 MB)

Melissa Lunden,
Ph.D.

<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

Chief Scientist

Aclima

Harnessing sensor networks
and big data to measure and manage our environment

YouTube

 

Edmund Seto,
Ph.D.
<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

Associate Professor

University of
Washington 

Integrating regulatory,
community and personal air quality data

YouTube

 PDF
(2.5 MB)

Katja Krivoruchko
<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

 Solution Engineer

ESRI 

 Using GIS to visualize and
analyze sensor data

YouTube

PDF
(1.2 MB)

Bart Croes,
P.E.

<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

Research Division Chief

CARB

Community air quality
research

YouTube

PDF
(1.8 MB)

 Ziv Lautman

 Co-Founder and CMO

 BreezoMeter

Using cloud, big data and
machine learning to predict air pollution

YouTube

 

Matt Scholl
<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

VP and General Manager,
Americas

EnviroSuite 

Maximizing the value of
sensor data with action-oriented management systems

YouTube

PDF
(7.7 MB)

Joseph Lyou,
Ph.D. 

President and CEO
<![if !supportLineBreakNewLine]>
<![endif]>

Coalition for Clean Air
(SCAQMD Board Member)

Perspectives and Expectations  Panel Session 

YouTube

PDF
(0.9 MB) 

Eric Stevenson

Director of Meteorology,
Measurement, and Rules

Bay Area AQMD

Perspectives and Expectations  Panel Session 

YouTube

 

Luis Olmedo

Executive Director

Comite Civico Del Valle

Perspectives and Expectations  Panel Session 

YouTube

 

Janet Whittick

Policy and Communications
Director

CCEEB

Perspectives and Expectations  Panel Session 

YouTube

 

Dean Bethke

Business Development Lead of IoT

Microsoft 

Microsoft’s approach to IoT: Digital transformation and the Internet of Things

YouTube

 PDF
(3.1 MB)

 Michael Hannigan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of Colorado
Boulder

Case studies of O3 and methane small
sensor networks in LA and Colo Front Range

YouTube

PDF
(3.8 MB) 

 William Griswold, Ph.D.

Professor 

University of California, San
Diego

CitiSense and MetaSense:
Challenges & technologies for mobile participatory sensing for air
quality
 

YouTube

 PDF
(2.1 MB)

 R. Subramanian, Ph.D.

 Research Scientist

Carnegie Mellon University

 Low-cost air quality
monitoring: RAMPs in Pittsburgh, PA

YouTube

 PDF
(2.9 MB)

 Vasileios Nasis,
Ph.D.

President and CEO

Netronix, Inc.

Internet of Things and
environmental monitoring

YouTube

 PDF
(7.3 MB)

David Diner, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist

JPL – California Institute of
Technology

Integration of satellite
observations with surface monitor measurements for retrieval of speciated particulate matter concentrations 
 

YouTube

 PDF
(1.1 MB)

 Petros Koutrakis,
Ph.D.

 Professor

Harvard University

 Assessment of human exposures
to air pollution using satellite-based remote sensing and spatiotemporal
models
 

YouTube

 PDF
(4.5 MB)

 Ronald Cohen, Ph.D.

 Professor

University of California,
Berkeley

Connecting space-based
observations with dense networks of surface measurements

YouTube

PDF
(4.9 MB) 

 Veronica Eady

Asst Executive Officer for
Environmental Justice
 

CARB

 Sensor Data Dissemination

YouTube

 PDF
(0.6 MB)

 Paul English, Ph.D., MPH

Senior Branch Science Advisor

CARB

Imperial County community air
monitoring project: Using low-cost sensors to develop a community air
monitoring network

YouTube

 PDF
(1.2 MB)

 Andrea Clements, Ph.D.

 Research Physical Scientist

U.S. EPA

 EPA’s efforts on discovery,
evaluation and application of emerging air sensor technologies

YouTube

PDF
(3.6 MB) 

 Abhijit RS

Data Architect 

Environmental Defense Fund

 From data to action, at scale

YouTube

 PDF
(1.4 MB)

Wayne Nastri

Executive Officer

South Coast AQMD

 

YouTube