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Karak university students develop IoT-based air pollution detection device

April 13, 2019

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A screen displays the results of the Air QuaM device. — Photo provided by author
A screen displays the results of the Air QuaM device. — Photo provided by author

Two students have from the Khushal Khan Khattak University in Karak have developed and installed a locally-made, Internet of Things (IoT) based air pollution detection gadget — the Air QuaM — to monitor the ratio of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and ammonia in Peshawar's air.

The students, Sajid Islam and Safdar Fahim, developed the device and installed it at the district secretariat in Peshawar on April 5.

The project was supervised by an assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science and Bio-Informatics at the university, Dr Muhmmad Zubair, who claimed that it was the first IoT-based air quality detection device in Pakistan.

In a post shared on Twitter, special assistant to the chief minister on science and technology, Kamran Bangash, also shared the news.

"A novelty step towards a better healthier Peshawar," Bangash wrote.

Developing the Air QuaM

The city district government of Peshawar and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Directorate of Science and Technology had previously entered an agreement to work together to counter air pollution. They subsequently contacted the university for assistance in finding ways to reduce air pollution in the city.

While speaking to DawnNewsTV, one of the students behind the device, Islam, said they started their project by hunting for the parts needed to build the machine in small shops. Eventually, they were given support by their university and the KP Directorate of Science and Technology.

The two students work on the device. — Photo provided by author
The two students work on the device. — Photo provided by author

Project supervisor Dr Zubair added that they had wanted to use locally-assembled sensors in the machine so that help from foreign countries was not required.

"We are shaping the machine according to international standards so that it can detect allergies caused by animal and plants along with giving the percentage of nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide in the air," he told DawnNewsTV.

How Air QuaM works

Dr Zubair explained that the machine operates on seven parameters to measure the percentage of moisture, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia and temperature in the air.

Find out more: Particulate air pollution growing in Peshawar

According to a document shared by the students, Air QuaM is an IoT-based cloud-synced machine. It integrates GSM, GPRS and other sensing components. It senses air quality and weather conditions and then sends the collected information to servers for analysis. Air QuaM has a range of two to three square kilometres.

As per the document, Air QuaM is an "energy efficient gadget".

Fahim, a fourth-semester student of the department, told DawnNewsTV that the device not only monitors the ratio of gases in the air but also monitors dust levels. It fixes two types of volume — 2.5 and 10 micron — to differentiate between dust particles in the air.

According to the assistant IT director at the district secretariat, Hilal Khan, the device collects data and sends it to the Directorate of Science and Technology through GSM every thirty minutes.

Aims of the device

A document shared by the students stated that the purpose of the device was to provide air quality information for policy and strategy development. Additionally, it was developed in order to make the environment a healthier and safer place by measuring, analysing and understanding the data on air pollution.

A close up of the Air QuaM device. — Photo provided by author
A close up of the Air QuaM device. — Photo provided by author

"On the [basis of the] results of the Air QuaM gadget the government will take measures to reduce [the] minimum pollution level," said Fahim.

According to a survey conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2016, Peshawar is the second most polluted city in the world, The Express Tribune had reported. In 2017, it was reported that World Bank estimates show that residents of Peshawar breathe an annual average of 110 cubic micro-metres of fine particulate matter ─ tiny pollutants that reduce visibility and reach deep into the respiratory tract.

Many development projects are currently underway in Peshawar, which have worsened air pollution levels.

Read: ‘Peshawar bus project causing high air pollution levels’

The mayor of the city, Muhammad Asim said that the district government has no serious mechanism to cope with the issue of air pollution in Peshawar. He said that after such an invention, they are hopeful that air in the city can be made safe for breathing again.

According to Asim, data will now be collected through the Air QuaM device and a comprehensive plan will be devised for citizens.

He said that the device detects the pollution levels in areas close to where it is installed such as the congested areas such as Bacha Khan Chowk, Firdos and Hashtnagari Bazar and surrounding areas of GT road.

The mayor said that if the experience is successful, the government will extend the project to other parts of the city.