National, European and even global monitoring networks, CO2 and VOC sensors, professional air purifiers, connected objects for the general public… measurement is constant both indoors and outdoors. An ever-increasing amount of data is circulating. IAQ is no exception to the rule. Especially since the health situation in Covid-19 has made this issue a major concern, particularly through the assessment of the level of confinement in a room. Opening up all or part of these data to share them means guaranteeing citizens a better level of information. For companies, it is also a question of imagining new “data driven” services for their customers. This is a way of reconciling general interest and responsible economic development in order to achieve the objective of pure air for all!

Although the implementation of the open data policy is a decade old in France (the ETALAB mission was created by a decree of 21 February 2011 while the law for a digital republic was promulgated on 7 October 2016), its apprehension by the general public remains a phenomenon in the making.

In a recent article on the subject, La Gazette des Communes quotes the figures from the CREDOC 2021 barometer: 27% of those surveyed say they have already consulted public and open data, but 42% admit that they do not really know what it is about. One of the best-known illustrations of the current phenomenon is the covidtracker website, which formats – to make them understandable to everyone – the Covid-19 data sets published each evening by the Regional Health Agencies (ARS) on the GEODES platform: the number of tests per day, the national incidence rate and according to departments or regions, hospitalizations, intensive care units… all these figures are freely available: they can be reprocessed at will and then presented online in the form of datavisualisation or dataviz, i.e. interactive infographics or graphics.

Screenshot of the French online open data portal:
Home page of the official portal

Open data means making digitised information available for reuse by as many people as possible,” explains Jean-Marc Lazard, CEO of Open Data Soft, the French market leader, in a podcast published on RFI. Reusable means publishing this information in standard web formats that will allow Internet users to consult it with everyday office tools“.

Moving from data to information – some media are precursors in the field of data-journalism (Le Télégramme de Brest in France, The Guardians in the UK, Financial Times, whose curves tracing the evolution of the coronavirus are a reference) – is one of the nine objectives to be achieved over the next decade, according to the report by the digital think tank FING, “Ten years of open public data, a critical assessment”, which also advocates the ability to produce useful and reusable data sets for eco-responsible computing.

The AASQA (Approved Air Quality Monitoring Associations) network is the driving force behind data sharing on air quality in France

What does this have to do with Outdoor Air Quality and IAQ? The link is direct: data are continuously collected, compiled and statistics are then disseminated on pollution in all its forms, in France and around the world. In France, according to a pre-established national scheme, the Atmo France network is one of the major players in the monitoring and warning system. Since 1 January 2021, the index it publishes every day has been harmonised with the thresholds of the environmental index. It takes into account fine particles PM2.5 in addition to sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone (03) and PM10. The outdoor air is classified into six levels: from good to extremely bad.

La consultation s’effectue via la plateforme atmo-france avec des focus pour les principales villes du territoire. Onze jeux de données des polluants majoritaires sont proposés en téléchargement dans la logique d’open data poursuivie par les Associations Agréées de Surveillance de la Qualité de l’Air (AASQA). A l’instar d’Air Breizh en région Bretagne qui a publié l’intégralité du pourquoi et comment de sa démarche.

In England, the city of Bristol has set up an Air Quality Dashboard, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Still within the Commonwealth, the Australian Smart Beaches project aggregates multiple indicators related to beach use (water quality, UV, general weather) including an air quality index. It is based on both open data and the LoRaWAN IoT network, which links the sensors together.

In Switzerland, the startup Sparrow is equipping taxis and buses with multi-sensors that measure urban pollution (PM2.5 and PM10, CO2, NO2, SO2, 03) as they travel through the city, with the results being displayed on maps. In the long term, “the objective is to provide precise scientific bases that can be used to support decisions to improve the lives of inhabitants,” summarises the Swiss magazine PME.

The step with the Smart City has been taken and the loop with open data has been completed: within the limits imposed by the reality of the digital divide, depending on the territory and the population, it is a question of improving the daily life of citizens by basing new services – public or private – on the reasoned use of data.

Data and digital transformation: digital for better IAQ

In this sense, data is becoming an ally in optimising IAQ, coupled with innovative tools such as BIM (Building Information Modeling) models or digital twins of buildings. Software tools on the market, connected to a BIM model, are now capable of simulating the concentration of pollutants in the air of a room based on construction and decoration materials (carpet, paint, glue, etc.), ventilation, occupancy rate, and outdoor pollution (in open data) to check whether the regulatory thresholds will be respected. By placing, in the equation, the appreciation of the rate of containment by CO2… it is possible to approach the possible risk of propagation of the coronavirus by aerosols. In the sanitary context, the interest is not to be demonstrated whether it concerns offices, schools…

An existing building, equipped with connected measuring devices (CO2, fine particles and VOCs), if it also has its own BIM, becomes intelligent through its ability to store and transmit information. A high school manager can then have a global and operational digital interface – the digital mock-up – to store his regulatory diagnostics, consult his dashboards with real-time measurements, alerts, pollutant thresholds exceeded, etc. This approach tends towards prediction and facilitates decision-making. And this is not yet a question of learning, machine learning or AI. This is the logic initiated by the IoT monitoring and air purifier management system developed by NatéoSanté for its EOLIS Air Manager range.

View on a laptop screen of the monitoring platform developed by NatéoSanté for remote and real time monitoring of its air purifiers
View of the monitoring system developed by NatéoSanté

Pure air for all: how to measure and achieve zero pollution objectives?

In its assessment of the decade, mentioned earlier, the Fench New Generation Internet Foundation (FING) puts two issues at the top of the list:

  • To make people see and want to use open data
  • Move towards a logic of integrated portals to create ever more useful services

A double leitmotiv that makes sense in the impalpable fields of Outdoor Air Quality and IAQ, major societal challenges. This in a context where there is a climate emergency and devastating joint effects on health. “If greenhouse gas emissions were reduced significantly, rapidly and sustainably, the benefits would be seen in 10 to 20 years’ time” notes the latest IPCC report AR6 Climate Change 2021. CO2 is the primary concern, but also methane emissions (pollution by aerosols). Open and public data would guarantee the transparency of action and the measurement of performance.

View of a man from behind on a rocky peak breathing clean mountain air

In conclusion, it is interesting to see that the recently deployed air quality data viewer of the European Environment Agency (EEA) emphasises the ability of everyone to anticipate air pollution over time in their place of residence. The ambition, with the idea of clean air for all, is “to provide concrete information at local level that gives the means to encourage authorities to solve these problems,” summarises Hans Bruyninck, executive director of the EEA. This will help us achieve the EU’s zero pollution targets”.

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