For highly reliable monitoring and control of air quality in the Netherlands to advance to the next level it needs to happen in far more places. But rolling out conventional monitoring networks on a large scale is a huge challenge both financially and in terms of organisation.

TNO has developed CAIREbox, a sensor platform that overcomes these objections. The sensor platform is a cheaper, robust and accurate alternative to conventional monitoring systems. Following successful tests in Eindhoven and Sliedrecht among other places, the first regional network of CAIREboxes is now operational in Southeast Brabant.

Enabling rapid response

Sensor platform called CAIREbox

Since 2020, sensors in dozens of monitoring devices in Brabant have been gathering air quality data 24 hours a day. The data can be viewed online on websites such as the TNO Dustmonitoring portal and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) Measure Together (Samenmeten) portal. So authorities, companies and citizens can now see air quality in real time.

This raises awareness and creates more possibilities for the monitoring of air quality standards. In this way, the monitoring network promotes a healthy living environment in Eindhoven and the surrounding area. The network is a collaboration between TNO, RIVM, the Municipal Health Service (GGD), Utrecht University, the municipality of Eindhoven, the province of North Brabant, the Southeast Brabant Environment Agency (Omgevingsdienst Zuidoost-Brabant) and AiREAS, an association that works to create a healthy living environment.

Optimised sensors

Developed by TNO experts, CAIREbox is designed to work with sensors currently available on the market. The device optimises the operation of the sensors so they monitor nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter levels with a high degree of accuracy. The platform’s modular architecture means that all kinds of sensors can be connected to it. So it will soon be possible to also monitor other substances and factors such as noise pollution.

Open data

The devices are designed to withstand extreme weather conditions so the sensors continue to operate unhindered. Readings are fed in real time into an advanced system that produces the data. The results can be viewed not only by government and health agencies but also by companies and citizens. This helps raise awareness and empowers individual efforts to build a healthier living environment.

Easy to install

This is also happening in various places outside of Eindhoven and the surrounding area where TNO has set up systems to monitor concentrations of hazardous substances. Installation is simple because the monitoring devices, which contain sensors, a battery, modem and a GPS module, can be attached to existing infrastructure such as street lights. So cities and regions can set up monitoring networks relatively quickly and inexpensively.

Quality through quantity

This will eventually allow for the creation of another layer of monitoring in addition to the National Air Quality Monitoring Network operated by RIVM. A greater number of monitoring stations increases measurement density and improves the accuracy of the existing air quality monitoring systems. CAIREbox data, which includes monitoring location, time and measured concentration, can be combined with other variables such as wind direction data to identify the source of air pollution. Mitigation measures can then be organised at district level or around certain roads.

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