A Turku, Finland based startup has developed a novel mobile method to measure air quality in urban areas. Their method is deployed on vehicles that go where people go (e.g. public busses) and measures entire cities or parts of a city in great geographic detail.
This new innovation utilises a technology that measures the seven most commonly regulated pollutants (4 gasses, three size categories of particulate matter). As it provides a lot of detail, it generates wide-ranging results. For instance, discovering inter-city differences, pollution sources or even measure the situation of a single street.
Today, air quality is mostly measured by few single, local measuring stations. For example, Turku has deployed two permanent sensors, one on the market-square and the other on the Ruissalo island, which combined measure four different pollutants. These deployment choices by cities are following EU regulations, and UrbanZee’s method can augment the information already collected.
Urbanzee’s goal is to measure air quality cost-effectively and to provide such data at a reasonable accuracy. According to CEO Aschwin van der Woude, current measurement methods do not provide information with adequate geographic detail for locals to make their daily decisions.
“We need more local information that is also accurate enough so that people can base their decisions on them. For example, our methods help people, to choose the right residential area to live in. We also want to offer people the opportunity to participate more actively in the local dialogue on air quality and finding ways to improve it. “
Urbanzee has already measured the areas of Kakolanmäki, Skanssi and Turku Castle. The results show that even in a Nordic city, such as Turku, pollution can be intermittently present, although on average Turku is fairly clean. Although based only on a single measurement run, the area around Turku castle showed a fair amount of pollution as it is located next to the harbour, whereas the Kakolanmäki hill did not show any pollution despite a waste-water treatment plant being located within the hill.
Urbanzee is currently looking for a partner city in Southwest Finland, to perform an air quality pilot. According to van der Woude, for example, one of the smaller industrial cities would provide a very interesting opportunity for detailed city-wide measurements. A pilot is also interesting for cities that profile themselves, to current and new residents, as having clean air.
Overall, the main targets for Urbanzee are larger cities around the world with significant pollution problems, especially those in China and India.