With the world slowly but surely opening up again and more cars driving the roads and trains hitting the tracks once more, keeping an eye on the outdoor air quality is increasingly more important. How good would it be, if you could read the air quality measurements from a monitor in your neighbourhood or somewhere else nearby, without having to buy or build your own sensor? Luckily for you, that is precisely what Sensor.Community offers.
Sensor.Community: A Citizen Science Project
The citizen science project, which started life as luftdaten.info and is now known as Sensor.Community, relies on those interested in highlighting the current state of our air quality. To get started, the project has a build guide, consisting of a NodeMCU ESP8266 board, a BME280 for temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure, and an SDS011 to measure fine particles.
What areas does Sensor.Community cover?
As the luftdaten.info project started in Germany, the bulk of the sensors are still located in its country of origin. Though the project's popularity is clearly growing and large parts of the German-speaking part of Switzerland are also covered. There's even one just over a Kilometre from where I am sitting, and I live in a dull little town.
But it is not just German-speakers that are building sensors. Bulgaria is almost as densely covered as Germany, the UK has sensors from Aberdeen all the way down to Brighton. Furthermore, the French and Polish are getting involved, and there are even a handful of stations in the US, Mexico, and China. The dream would, of course, be to have a crowdsourced air quality monitor that covers the planet.
What does Sensor.Community measure?
The Sensor.Community build plan's main sensor is the SDS011 from Nova Fitness. It measures both PM2.5 and PM10 particles using the principle of laser scattering. Just as the NodeMCU, this sensor can be run off 5V, making the project much easier to build. A BME280 adds accurate temperature and humidity readings to the project.
The most important metric is clearly the PM2.5 measurements. In 2016 alone, exposure to PM2.5 contributed to 4.1 million deaths from heart disease and stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and respiratory infections.
Why Sensor.Community is important
Despite the happy-go-lucky stories we are regularly fed by large companies, humanity is not treating the air we breathe all too well. But with the ever-increasing number of monitors, the Sensor.Community project can help highlight, just how bad our air is.
For example, the map above shows the outcome of New Year's Eve fireworks in Germany. Yes, they are pretty, but they are undoubtedly a health risk. Lately, wood stoves have come back in to fashion, with many believing that they are somehow better than the alternatives because wood is natural. Unfortunately, I don't have a screenshot, but in a valley, such as the one I live in, particles from wood burning play havoc with my asthma.
How to integrate Sensor.Community and Home Assistant
Integrating Sensor.Community and Home Assistant has been moved to the dashboard configuration and is thus done in seconds. One thing to note is that Home Assistant still uses the old name, luftdaten.info. To find the nearest monitor, simply open the Sensor.Community map and insert the available IDs.