Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Libelium IoT network protects children from asthma

Steve Rogerson
April 16, 2019

Russian smart city company Airalab is using an IoT sensor network and blockchain to prevent asthma attacks in children by monitoring air quality conditions in play areas. The technology comes from Spanish firm Libelium.
Asthma is one of the most frequent causes of absenteeism in schools. This disease, that affects the respiratory tract, can alter sleep, play and other activities necessary for proper child growth.
In industrialised countries, a progressive rise in asthma has been observed. The condition is prevalent between three and thirty per cent of children aged six and seven years old. The total number of children suffering from this chronic disease increased by 75% between 1980 and 1994. A new study by researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health found that about four million children worldwide develop asthma each year because of inhaling nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution. The study, based on data from 2010 to 2015, estimates that 64 per cent of these new cases of asthma occur in urban areas. 
Because there are few static stations monitoring the level of air pollution, data are rarely measured and arrive with a delay. Thus engineers of the Airalab team had the idea to install a modern automatic sensor network provided by Libelium in several play areas.
This project features a system of sensors that monitor air quality in the school yard. Airalab uses blockchain technology for storing information in a decentralised network. In this case, it allows the state and its citizens to obtain trusted data and use it along with the information from stationary posts.
In August, Airalab, with the support of Smart Distribution, Libelium’s distributor in Russia, installed a network at ten points in the Russian city of Togliatti, a residential area. The Airalab team chose Libelium’s Waspmote Plug & Sense Smart Environment Pro because of its easy use and long-life battery, and because it does not require expertise.
The kit was installed with a particle matter and dust sensor, and with air quality sensors for detecting SO2 and NO2. The data obtained gave the first impression of the current air state in the city with the example of one play area. The data were sent via 4G.
The aim of Airalab is to establish the bases for the implementation of a network of air quality monitoring in areas of special vulnerability such as schools, playgrounds, nursing homes and hospitals that can provide information for local governments to take measures that protect its citizens.
In addition, the use of blockchain technology for storing information in a decentralised network not only allows the state and its citizens to trust these data but also permits the entrepreneurs to sell air quality information directly to interested organisations. This means there is no intermediary bypassing bureaucratic procedures, which makes it possible to recoup the cost of installing sensors.
The average daily MPC (maximum permissible concentration) has not been exceeded by any indicator, although there has been a sharp increase in certain periods of time. Based on the measurements, which are taken every ten minutes day and night, the following recommendation could be made: during the period of the most active use of transport on the city roads, it is better to refrain from long walks and staying outside.
In reference to the analysis of data from the sensorsinstalled in the yard, Airalab engineers are sure their research is useful and necessary. Also, there is a plan to go beyond the scope of air condition research only at one point in the city by installing a whole network of sensors. In this regard, the future plans for the project are:

  • Public opinion research on the subject of possible places for installation of sensors.
  • Appealing to the relevant departments for comments on the results obtained.
  • Continuation of the project not only in terms of installing a larger number of sensors but also combining them into a network capable of conducting online monitoring of the air quality in the city of Togliatti.
“Smart Environment Pro is an excellent platform,” said the Airalab team. “You can start with the prototype on Waspmote with Gases Pro in the office and transfer the firmware to a device with a case for outdoor installation. During the day, the battery charge is enough to send measurements via 4G from five sensors once a minute or more. During the night, the battery is recharged from the lanterns, where the sensor is installed. It is compact and flexibly programmable with a high frequency of measurement acquisition. Moreover, it has more reliable measurements due to factory calibration than alternative Arduino-compatible solutions, and also it provides an opportunity to get the system ready for operation fast.”