The sensors have been installed by Norfolk-based Westcotec in partnership with manufacturer Airly.

For the first time, the sensor network provides open-access real-time accurate air quality information via an online live map link.

Speaking at the launch of the network at the MOVE urban mobility exhibition (at Excel, London) earlier this week, Central Bedfordshire Council senior road safety engineer Tim Oxley set out the opportunities now available to reduce exposure to high levels of pollution.

“This project provides a significant step forward in relation to the action we can take when air pollution levels are high,” he said. “We previously had to wait for data, meaning we were unable to make on-the-spot interventions.  Now, by integrating the real-time data with other roadside technology, we can take immediate action that will reduce exposure to high levels of air pollution – steps such as putting traffic diversions in place.

“We believe we now have an excellent opportunity to be proactive in dealing with air pollution and to minimise its impact on people in Central Bedfordshire. Looking ahead, we have a number of initiatives planned which relate to the air pollution sensors; for example projects with schools, monitoring pollution from buses and traffic diversions using vehicle-activated signs when air quality levels require.”

Westcotec head of sales Olly Samways explained he was excited to watch the project evolving. “There is widespread concern regarding what can be done about poor air quality. We therefore welcome the opportunity to showcase the reliability and accuracy of the air pollution sensors, and to demonstrate how the sensors can work in parallel with other technology.

“For example, we can create diversion signage that will only trigger when pollution levels are high, and which will guide specific categories of vehicle – such as heavy goods vehicles and buses – away from at-risk areas at these times.

“The next steps on this exciting journey are already taking place, in the form of meetings with more local authorities to discuss the potential of using these monitors to obtain coverage across the whole of the UK.”

About the equipment

  • The air quality monitor is a small device that records PM1, PM2.5, PM10, NOx gas, temperature, humidity, pressure and wind levels, with data available in real-time.
  • It offers 90 per cent accuracy in comparison with existing DEFRA sites in the UK. Sensors were installed in same locations as DEFRA sites in Norwich when they were first purchased by Westcotec.
  • The devices can be installed onto any existing infrastructure with a mains power supply.
  • They can be mounted onto any mains-powered Westcotec product, and can also be retro-fitted to existing equipment around the country (more than 10,000 pieces of equipment around the UK).
  • The monitor is manufactured by Airly in Poland. Installations and maintenance is undertaken by Westcotec, exclusive suppliers in the UK.

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