American Ingenuity on Display at Next Gen Tech Demo Day

•Administrator McCarthy, then-Deputy Administrator Perciasepe and Assistant Administrator Giles learn about water pollution monitoring technology.

Administrator McCarthy, then-Deputy Administrator Perciasepe and Assistant Administrator Giles learn about water pollution monitoring technology.

 

I’ve been talking a lot about the impact and promise of EPA’s Next Generation Compliance strategy. As a vital program to reduce pollution, build transparency and save costs, it has become a driving force to unleash American ingenuity and innovation. This was certainly evident last week, when EPA hosted a “Next Generation Compliance Advanced Monitoring Tech Demo Day” that convened some of the latest advances in pollution monitoring across the country. Walking through the event with Administrator McCarthy and then-Deputy Administrator Perciasepe was so much fun, not to mention inspiring. EPA, academia, industry and non-profit organizations presented so many solutions there, each with a unique approach to solve complex pollution challenges.

Here’s a quick recap of what we saw.

Air pollution data is collected on small sensors and displayed on screen.

Air pollution data is collected on small sensors and displayed on screen.

First we stopped by the “Kids Making Sense” exhibit by Sonoma Technology and HabitatMap to check out air particulate sensors that demonstrate data through crowd sourcing. Yes, it’s as cool as it sounds! These “AirBeam” sensors fit in the palm of your hand. Taking a stroll down the street, the system records air pollution levels in real time. The data is transmitted to a central website where pollution levels are displayed on a computer screen – tracing your footsteps with red for higher levels of pollution, and green for lower levels. The variance in pollution from one area to the next astonished me!

A laptop computer displays geospatial mapping data.

Next, we stopped by an exhibit from researchers at Clemson University showcasing a program called Intelligent River®. This technology is used today to monitor for water pollutants in river basins, through a network of sensors that can cover an expansive geographic area. The variety of ways this technology presents and analyzes data impressed me – whether it’s through telemetry platforms, advanced data processing and storage systems, wireless transmission technology, or visualization and analytics tools.

Moving along, we visited our EPA Region 5 colleagues presenting geospatial mapping technologies. Some of our agency’s talented environmental scientists have developed a device that mounts on a vehicle to measure air pollutants in real time, downwind from potential sources. The data is displayed on a laptop computer inside the vehicle and can be overlaid on Google Earth to show the concentrations of pollutants in any given community. It’s already used today to measure concentrations in communities and the resulting benefits from settlements between EPA and regulated facilities.

As you can tell, we’ve come a long way in monitoring for pollution. These are just three examples of the 17 exhibits displayed at the Tech Demo day. Other technologies on display included infrared cameras used to view industrial flares, smartphone enabled radiation monitoring – used by citizens following Fukushima, and wearable sensors to measure toxic contaminants in air, water, and soil and to assess personal exposure to particles and gases in air. Seeing the technologies, hearing from the developers, and testing them in real-world settings reinforced to me just how much we can accomplish through Next Gen. It’s not about looking into the future anymore. Next Gen is protecting communities today.