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A New Frontier for Air Sensors 2014

2014 June 6

By Dustin Renwick

palm-sized air quality sensor

Compact air quality sensor fits in the palm of your hand.

The wearable market has expanded its product line—from smart glasses and smart watches to dozens of different fitness tracker wristbands and T-shirts that interact with the world around you.

What you don’t see in these gadgets is the tiny technologies that make it possible for your T-shirt to light up or for you to tap your wrist and see how many calories you’ve burned.

Similar to how computers shrunk from the size of rooms to the size of your front pocket, sensors have also been developed in ever decreasing dimensions.

One of the major applications for EPA: sensors that measure air quality. Agency researchers and others can use these portable, real-time sensors in the environment to gain a more intricate picture of what’s happening in our communities.

We’ve hosted a competition won by a design for a wearable sensor that estimates a person’s exposure to air pollution. EPA grants fund broad cookstove research, some of which includes the use of air sensors to measure pollution from indoor cookstoves.

Last fall, EPA collaborators published a seminal paper on the sensor revolution in a top journal, Environmental Science & Technology. The journal received more than 5,400 submissions in 2013 on a variety of topics, and EPA’s research won first runner-up for best feature paper.

One of the most important parts of this field of study is the diversity of people interested in the work.

Next week, we’ll hold an air sensors workshop to spark more discussions and continue this important work advancing innovative air sensor technologies by bringing together scientists, policy experts, technology developers, data analysts, and leaders from government, industry, and community groups.

To learn more about the opportunities and challenges that air sensors present, register for the webcast of our workshop on June 9-10.

We’ll live tweet the event from @EPAresearch using #AirSensors.

About the author: Dustin Renwick works as part of the innovation team in the EPA Office of Research and Development.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. Enviro Equipment, Inc. permalink
    June 9, 2014

    What a boon these wearable sensors would be for people with respiratory conditions who are negatively impact by poor air quality. As someone who has severe asthma, I can tell personally attest to feeling the difference between where air quality reported on the news is taking and where I live and/or work 10 miles away. The sensors would give me an accurate reading of the air where I need it most; right where I’m standing (and breathing)!

    • Dustin, EPA permalink
      June 9, 2014

      Thanks for reading! Be sure to check out the webcast tomorrow for a panel on the future of these technologies.

  2. Ken permalink
    September 25, 2014

    Technology has always proven to be the boon for mankind unless and until it is used in a bad way. These sensors will definitely change the new era and will help everyone.

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