‘Praxis/Handheld’ air quality monitor selected to map Oxford air

A new, handheld device from air quality specialist South Coast Science has been instrumental in pinpointing variation in air quality across Oxford. OxAir, a partnership of independent experts dedicated to monitoring the quality of air in Oxford, selected the handheld monitor to fulfil their mission of measuring air pollution from a ‘human’ perspective. Their goal is to obtain reliable data on air quality at any specific time and location in order to inform a robust air quality improvement strategy. Data collected will also equip individuals with information about their personal travel choices, forming part of OxAir’s socially inclusive collaboration with local stakeholders.

Praxis/Handheld with the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford in background. Credit – Jake Backus, Empathy Sustainability, www.OxAir.org

To achieve this goal, OxAir spent nearly two years searching for a sensor which would be reliable, portable and affordable, finally settling on the Praxis/Handheld. The device has been developed for monitoring personal exposure to pollution, and essential to this is the ability to gather spatial and temporal variations in air quality via the array of built-in sensors.

Additionally, while many lower-cost products are capable of measuring particulate only, the Praxis/Handheld is equipped with an electrochemical NO2 sensor from Alphasense, as well as those for temperature and humidity.

Jake Backus, Project Leader, OxAir, (Managing Director, Empathy Sustainability Ltd.) said, “It turns out that measuring air quality is much more complex than most people imagine! We want to be at the forefront of reliable, portable and affordable sensor technology in order to support behaviour change and public policy.”

OxAir equipped members of the public with the device, which can easily be carried on a backpack, and used it to collect air quality information throughout the day and across the city. The data was then transmitted for analysis either via a hot-spot from the user’s phone or automatically downloaded when the device reconnected to WiFi. This has enabled OxAir to collect granular data not only about background air quality levels in Oxford but also specific levels of NO2 and particulates in the air at any given time and place across the city. As Jake explains, “This is important because human exposure to air pollution is not based on static equipment averages. Typically we are exposed to pollution at its peaks, e.g. while commuting and going to school during rush hour. These peaks often exceed legal standards of air quality, despite recorded averages being within an acceptable range.”

David Johnson, Sales Director, South Coast Science has been very encouraged by the feedback on the OxAir Project, stating “Development of this product started way back with the development of our Praxis/Urban product for fixed air quality monitoring. The lessons we learned then about collocation and gathering of gas and particle data have been applied throughout the product range, and we are delighted to start sharing this with customers so they can enjoy the fruits of that work.”

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