Groupe d’études et de recherche en analyse des décisions

Upcoming challenges of air quality and odour monitoring for Smart City

Guy Laliberté Odotech, Canada

Worldwide, authorities have more and more data to better understand what is happening with the air quality their citizens breathe. In fact, this is happening not only at a city level but also regionally and even for entire counties.

However, as of today, two key factors have mainly slowed down the growth in this matter:

  • Currently, air quality monitoring stations are either of poor quality or very expensive. As such, governments (municipal, regional or national) are only investing in a limited number of monitoring stations.
  • People do not complain about the level of Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) or carbon dioxide in the air. They will complain about odours which are very difficult to quantify since it is a human perception. Gases and odours are two different subjects. When it comes to "allocating budgets" politicians do not have yet the incentive to widely "invest in air quality monitoring" since odours and gas contaminants are still distinct subjects.

Upcoming new technologies are expected to change this reality in a very near future. New gas sensors should soon allow a very large scale deployment of "air quality and odour quantification devices". This will create some regulatory challenges for the authorities since the size of available databases will grow exponentially (Big Data). When citizens have large scale databases to base their claims, the authorities will have to initiate actions to "manage" this new reality.

This new reality raises many questions such as: How should odours be quantified for large scale deployment of sensors? What should be the odour scale versus the Air Quality Health Index? How should the databases be managed to reflect "valuable data"? How do you summarize the information so it makes sense for the authorities and citizens? And many others.