Another Black Friday and a Cyber Monday have come and gone, as has Christmas and Boxing Day.

According to VOX, it is estimated that the US Postal Service makes 850 million deliveries from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. That equates to a lot of parcel deliveries via a host of transportation technologies.

Executive Director at The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago pointed out back in 2016 that US C02 emissions from transport eclipsed power stations for the first time since 1979.

Source: DOE, EIA, May 2016 Monthly Energy Review

Air quality is becoming a bone of contention for many people around the world, but do they know exactly which entities are the worst offenders for polluting the air?

Not until now – and it is thanks to engineering.

Sensor and satellite technologies are producing data which will help inform citizens and make private sector and government far more transparent.

An organization named Resources for the Future, use satellite data to measure air pollution. Their conclusions, as compared with previous studies, indicate that 24% more Americans live in areas that do not meet the federal air quality standards, as set out by the Environment Protection Agency.

The 24% spike is concerning, but the use of multiple sensors may account for the increase.


New technologies = more data

Engineered sensor technologies are becoming increasingly important to climate scientists and energy policy makers alike. Historically, air quality monitors have been overly expensive. This has led to single investments of air quality monitors in US states, and the statistics, therefore, are relevant only to focused pockets rather than to the length and breadth of each state. Some states literally have one stationary sensor measuring air quality.

The Environmental Defense Fund demonstrates the illogical nature of single monitors versus the clearly superior mobile sensors:

Source: Environmental Defense Fund

Google Earth Outreach has come to the rescue, piloting a project that will see low-cost sensors  map air pollution at a ‘hyperlocal’ level. The EDF says these sensors can ‘be mounted on cars, trucks, and even bicycles - or in denser stationary networks than regulatory monitors’.

With the wider network of sensors capturing air quality data, a clearer picture of the degradation of air quality can be made. Furthermore, the mobile sensors will enable everyone to access the information via online maps with updated air quality readings.

Making the data freely available could have interesting consequences.In the near future, for example, before people make a property investment, the air quality of the area may be considered first and foremost.

Forbes is encouraging companies to equip themselves with the kind of processes which might spare them the public scorn of their carbon footprint. Especially the kinds of companies involved in the shipping and logistics industries. They suggest companies do the following to prevent future outrage when mobile sensors give the public a clearer picture of the air quality around their buildings:

  • Do an energy audit, invest in energy efficiency, and electrify building heat sources.
  • Invest in renewables or purchase energy from clean energy providers.
  • Work with your supply chain to set science-based targets, adopt best practices, and measure and report progress.
  • Partner with other companies, utilities, communities and governments to innovate, create infrastructure, and show demand for heavy-duty vehicle electrification


Works Cited

Fund, Environmental Defense. “New Technology, Transparency Will Soon Tie Air Pollution Back To Brands.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 20 Nov. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/edfenergyexchange/2018/11/20/new-technology-transparency-will-soon-tie-air-pollution-back-to-brands/#276af29a10b6.

Ori, Sam. “Sam Ori (@samori8).” Twitter, Twitter, 26 Nov. 2018, twitter.com/samori8.

“A New Challenge for Sensors: 24 Million More Americans Breathing Unhealthy Air than Previously Thought.” Environmental Defense Fund, www.edf.org/blog/2018/09/20/new-challenge-sensors-24-million-more-americans-breathing-unhealthy-air-previously.

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