UIA HOPE First Year Wrap-up: Crowdsourced Air Quality Monitoring in Helsinki

The Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY air quality monitoring network provides accurate measurements from the locations of fixed monitoring stations in Helsinki region and the network consists currently of eleven monitoring locations spread over a wide and diverse area of the four municipalities, Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.

The first major milestone of the HOPE project is planning and building three comprehensive local monitoring networks in Jätkäsaari, Vallila and Pakila area based on new generation version of  VAISALA AQT420 sensors, WXT530 weather stations and Pegasor AQ Urban– monitors. In addition to building the monitoring networks the crowdsourced citizen air quality measurement campaigns have began. Up to 100 citizens at a time will carry a mobile sensor device which will produce hyper-local real time air quality data to be processed as a part of the  regional air quality information, maps and forecasts. State of the art technologies developed in the project such as AI algorithms, machine learning and edge-computing are used in calibrating the sensors and crunching the data.

HOPE project focuses on three districts in Helsinki with varying air quality challenges. Jätkäsaari is major residential waterfront district under development which will be home to some 30 000 citizens by 2030 but its current over 10 000 inhabitants are affected by the dust from ongoing local construction works and related logistics as well as traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. Vallila is a dense older inner-city district with urban street canyons with over 30 000 vehicles passing through daily and causing emissions and heavy street dust problem especially during the early spring season. Suburban Pakila area is affected by local domestic wood burning smoke as well as the two main highways including the Ring 1 road with about 100 000 vehicles passing through the area every day. 

The project will organize six crowdsourced air quality measuring campaigns with proprietary HOPE mobile sensors designed by University of Helsinki’s Megasense research group over the three year span between 2019-2021. The portable sensors connect to user’s smart phone via Bluetooth and transfer the data to the University of Helsinki’s Megasense IoT data platform.

First citizen monitoring campaign was conducted as a small scale pilot in Jätkäsaari from June to August 2019 with approximately thirty local residents recruited from the Air Quality Troops pool of volunteers.  In return for participating the user gets a personal webpage with graphs and map of the measurements of user’s exposure to air pollution such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, ozone and pm2.5 and pm10 particles. Even though carrying the sensor device and keeping it connected with the mobile phone can be considered as quite cumbersome and technically challenging by someone not used to such experiments in the feedback survey 100% of the campaign participants said they would recommend participating in the HOPE mobile air quality sensoring to their friends and neighbors. All in all the results of the first measurement campaign were very encouraging for the project and its future. 

The project’s first full-scale measurement campaign is currently going on in the Pakila area, in the early spring of 2020 the project moves to measure in Vallila and then the same round of measurements in the three areas will be repeated. In 2020 and 2021 the project will mobilize the citizens in their own districts through co-design, participatory budgeting and local air quality interventions. In addition to these activities an innovation competition with the theme of utilizing the air quality data produced by the project will be organized for companies in the spring 2020. 

Jussi Kulonpalo, Project Manager