Measuring Air Quality in Real Time – Swedish “Insplorion” has found the answer with the help of IOT

A SIGH OF RELIEF? BROUGHT TO YOU BY INSPLORION: The air of the future is determined by our present actions. Air is something that many take for granted, but the quality of air plays a significant part in our lives and can be severely detrimental if it is not up to standard. According to the World Health Organization, it leads to millions of deaths annually and reduces the quality of life in severely polluted cities. “Leave it to the experts, governments and the UN to figure it out”, many of us think – but if businesses neglect something as principal as air, then we are all worse off. Luckily, there’s a Swedish company that has seen this as an opportunity and has utilised their own latest sensor-based technology available to measure air quality in real time. . . with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT). Insplorion captured headlines when it implemented nanotechnology to elongate the range and charge of electric vehicles last year. Now they are back and you don’t have to hold your breath for much longer. . .

From the “little Venice” of Sweden with life-changing research . . .

Insplorion is a Gothenburg-based company whose underlying technology was developed during a decade of research at the Department of Chemical Physics at Chalmers University of Technology. The university consistently ranks highly in the world of engineering education and carries significant prestige inside the country itself for its world-renowned research and results. The research in this case, led by Professor Bengt Kasemo, resulted in a patent application in 2009 and in a project at Chalmers Entrepreneur School, after which Insplorion was founded in 2010. The company currently has 9 employees and is listed on the Spotlight market (formerly known as Aktietorget – a Swedish trading platform). Last year the company made waves around the world as it concluded a cooperation agreement with the multinational company Littelfuse. The collaboration was primarily about marketing Insplorion’s battery sensor technology to larger customers in the automotive industry. With Insplorion’s own measurement technology in batteries, electric cars would be able to run longer and charge faster. It was a crucial first step as it showed that it can find creative solutions to important problems and deliver those results with wide accessibility . . . and now also in the field of air quality.
With growing urbanization and increasing problems with polluted city air, the need for competitive air quality sensors has grown significantly. The technology for measuring air quality has been available but is now is now more reliably available with small and robust sensors developed by Insplorion. “Air pollution is a real health problem and, according to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to health with millions of deaths annually. Being able to measure air quality at local level in real time in districts and areas instead of getting a middle figure for a whole city facilitates urban and traffic planning,” says Patrik Dahlqvist, CEO of Insplorion. [Source: VA]

Sensors are the future of air quality and Insplorion is changing the game. . .

When it comes to present measuring equipment, it is expensive, complex and stationary and gives a blunt result as there are too few measuring points which are crucial to get a detailed picture. Therefore, it is not possible to capture local variations in air quality in larger cities. The measuring points that are present today are often placed on roofs, for example, and therefore do not give a fair picture of the air you breathe down the street. Insplorion’s proprietary NPS technology (NanoPlasmonic Sensing) is an optical platform technology that can measure, for example, gas molecules using a sensor chip. 

By making the measuring sensors, as Insplorion has done – small and reliable, and at a lower price, it is possible to spread these across a city. With the accelerating transition to smart cities with established digital infrastructure, it is possible to connect the sensors to other connected technology. This is done with the help of a concept that has increasingly taken center stage in recent times: The Internet of Things (IoT). “The Internet of Things makes it possible to download, coordinate and analyze measurement data from many different sources to make smart decisions. For example, we have a partnership with Leading Light AB and can combine their luminaires with our sensors. The cities can then solve efficient lighting and measure nitrogen dioxide more accurately with one and the same solution. ”

With growing demand in Asia and South America which have major air pollution problems, it’ll be interesting to see whether Insplorion can produce results with a potential to identify risky areas that drastically need improvements in air quality. In Sweden, a special parliament initiative defined fresh air: “The air should be so clean that people’s health and animals, plants and cultural values are not damaged.” – if Insplorion could follow and apply Sweden’s values to other cities – perhaps the world’s air could one day be defined as fresh. As it stands, with millions of people dying annually, we are far from reaching a sustainable level, but the question that remains is whether Insplorion could be an effective force in helping national and local government more accurately measure their goals. Perhaps it’s too early to let out a sigh of relief with whatever air that you breathe – but Insplorion at least instills a feeling of optimism about the future.
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