Localized real-time information on outdoor air quality at kindergartens in Oslo, Norway using low-cost sensor nodes

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Abstract

In Norway, children in kindergartens spend significant time outdoors under all weather conditions, and there is thus a natural concern about the quality of outdoor air. It is well known that air pollution is associated with a wide variety of adverse health impacts for children, with greater impact on children with asthma.

Especially during winter and spring, kindergartens in Oslo that are situated close to streets with busy traffic, or in areas where wood burning is used for house heating, can experience many days with bad air quality. During these periods, updated information on air quality levels can help the kindergarten teachers to plan appropriate outdoor activities and thus protect children's health.

We have installed 17 low-cost air quality nodes in kindergartens in Oslo. These nodes are smaller, cheaper and less complex to use than traditional equipment. Performance evaluation shows that while they are less accurate and suffer from higher uncertainty than reference equipment, they still can provide reliable coarse information about local pollution. The main challenge when using this technology is that calibration parameters might change with time depending on the atmospheric conditions. Thus, even if the sensors are calibrated a priori, once deployed, and especially if they are deployed for a long time, it is not possible to determine if a node is over- or under-estimating the concentration levels. To enhance the data from the sensors, we employed a data fusion technique that allows generating a detailed air quality map merging the data from the sensors and the data from an urban model, thus being able to offer air quality information to any location within Oslo.

We arranged a focus group with the participation of local administration, kindergarten staff and parents to understand their opinion and needs related to the air quality information that was provided to the participant kindergartens. They expressed concern about the data quality but agree that having updated information on the air quality in the surroundings of kindergartens can help them to reduce children's exposure to air pollution.

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