How smart sensors help to control the air pollution problem

By now, you’ve probably noticed the growing number of air pollution-causing products and devices on your phone, from smart thermostats to smart plugs.

But what exactly does that really mean? 

Read moreA lot of it is very simple.

A smart thermoregulator or battery is just a device that senses the temperature of a home or office and then sets the correct energy output for that temperature.

For example, if you have a smart fan on your smart plug, and you want it to blow cool air into your home, you might set the temperature to 50 degrees Celsius and the fan to 60 degrees Celsius.

If you have an air purifier on your home or a humidifier in your office, the air purifiers might set its temperature to 60 per cent and the humidifiers to 60 and then turn off. 

In a similar vein, you can set your smart lightbulb to turn on or off automatically when it senses a low temperature.

And smart plugs, which can detect the temperature and energy output of your home and work environment, could be controlled by a smartphone app or by an app on your smartphone. 

It’s a lot like how smart cars work, where sensors in your car monitor the speed of traffic and tell you whether to change lanes or not.

It’s a smart way of monitoring pollution, says Dr Nick Burt, an environmental health expert at the University of Sheffield, UK. 

“What this means is that we can now control the behaviour of the smart plug with a smartphone application and the device itself without having to rely on an air quality monitoring system,” he told BBC News. 

What’s more, smart plugs are also capable of monitoring the ambient air in your home – something that is very useful if you live in an apartment. 

Burt says that the latest smart lighting systems that are currently on sale are also being used to monitor ambient air pollution in apartments. 

How are these smart devices used? 

“Smart bulbs are actually quite useful as a pollution monitor because they are connected to your phone.

If the ambient light in your room is lower than the ambient lighting in your house, then the bulb is not producing as much light, and the sensor is not responding to ambient light as quickly,” he says. 

If the ambient lights are too bright, for example, then your home may be getting too much light. 

But smart lights aren’t just used for this, because they can also help monitor pollutants from the air outside.

For instance, in one of the most recent Smart Air Pollution Smart Lights tests, which was published in 2016, a smart light was placed on a table in the living room, and it emitted the ambient temperature at 6.8 degrees Celsius, well above the normal indoor temperature of 6.0 degrees Celsius – so it was very high, even though it was indoors.

 “The smart light emitted a sensor reading of 6C above ambient air,” says Burt.

“The ambient air temperature of the room was only about 10C lower than it would be outside, so that sensor reading indicates that the ambient was very low.”

What happens if the ambient changes? 

Bentley’s team have also looked at how smart lighting can be used to measure air quality and have found that ambient air can change when there are people around. 

One example is the use of smart lighting to detect when an indoor water heater or furnace is not working, because when a smart bulb is placed on the wall, the ambient is typically very low. 

So what happens when that same smart light is placed in the bedroom or on a kitchen counter?

“When the ambient [air] temperature is low, the sensors in the smart light will respond to that,” says Bentley.

“In the same way that if you are sitting on a sofa, the sensor readings of the ambient will be lower, so the sensor will react to lower ambient air.

If there are no people around, the temperature sensors will respond in the same manner.”

If there are three smart lights, then that three lights are all being monitored together, and if the three lights have a different ambient temperature, then they all respond differently,” he said. 

Does this mean smart lighting is dangerous? 

There is one area where smart lighting devices are being used for something else, and that is to monitor air quality in buildings. 

A team of scientists at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London, UK, have recently published a paper on smart lighting in buildings, which looked at the potential for smart lighting sensors to capture data from air quality problems in buildings that might be caused by different types of pollutants. 

The researchers found that smart lighting, if used correctly, can help reduce air pollution. 

They also used an algorithm developed by Burt and colleagues to predict the potential of a smart lighting sensor to improve the accuracy of air quality readings. 

Why are smart lighting products important? 

The research by Bentley’s