Technology and humans have a two-way action/reaction relationship. Sometimes technological capacity influences our lives and sometimes we endeavor to devise means to solve our problems using technology.
Given the concerns over the quality of the air we breathe, one company has developed a small device that can measure local conditions.
PerkinElmer’s “Elm” is available for groups, communities, and individuals to install and link to the monitoring network to track what’s floating around in the air.
From its website:
“Elm : The air monitoring sensor network that’s everywhere you are. Small, wireless, data driven, and ubiquitous, Elm is simply the best means for collecting, storing, and sharing the real-time, critical environmental information you need, whether you’re making sustainability decisions for your community – or simply living there.”
Air Quality Monitoring for Healthier, More Productive Cities.
Each a self-enclosed weatherproof unit, Elm works wirelessly. The sensor constantly checks the air around it and reports in 20-second intervals to a centralized network. Since it works via WiFi, anyone can access the data at any time.
The Boston metropolitan area (home of PerkinElmer in Waltham) is the first to use a widespread network of Elm devices. There are no pictures of an Elm device but one would presume it’s small. Elm can detect humidity, nitrogen dioxide, nitrous oxide, noise, ozone, particulates, temperature, and volatile organic compounds (VOC). The maker is working on refining the technology further to include other pollutant tracking.
The idea is that, although the government has weather stations all over the country, the nearest one to you is probably fairly far away. Even if you live in a city that has one, you may live twenty, fifty, or a hundred miles from it; checking current air quality conditions, therefore, isn’t entirely accurate for your neighborhood. Elm is meant to fill in the gaps. For some people, it’s a very real concern; asthmatics, allergy sufferers, the elderly, infants, and anyone immunocompromised has critical interest in the condition of their air.
How Very Sad That This is Even an Issue.
Air pollution has been a growing problem for the last one hundred years. In some cities, chronic smog is a constant health hazard. Places like Beijing, Delhi, and Los Angeles are notorious for poor air quality. Use of devices like Elm would make it easier to see at a click if you want to bring your asthmatic son to the playground or your elderly mother for a stroll in the neighborhood park.
With experience in working with the Environmental Protection Agency, PerkinElmer is most likely to market to local communities rather than individuals. Schools, city halls, and hospitals could all benefit from a tool like this.
For those who are interested but don’t need their own devices, there is an online continuous feed of air quality around the world. May we all stay in the green.