What if... your smartphone could give you an instant air quality reading?

Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (NCE)


Canadians with asthma, allergies or other respiratory conditions often rely on federal and provincial air quality reports when deciding if it’s safe to go outside. But governments cannot afford to install monitoring stations everywhere, which results in localized black holes, particularly in dense urban areas. That could change with a new device developed by AllerGen researchers at the University of Toronto. Less expensive and more portable than other commercial devices, the AirSENCE monitor can be mounted outdoors, placed inside homes or accessed through a smartphone to measure harmful pollutants in real-time. It was available to athletes and visitors attending the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games last summer in Toronto, and will be tested in Beijing in 2016.

AllerGen has been there since the beginning, having quickly recognized the value of getting more air quality information into the hands of those impacted by allergy and asthma and the potential use of this new sensor technology. For example, being able to map air pollution in greater detail could influence the zoning of new schools, daycare centres and retirement homes, and decisions about bike routes or where to purchase a home.Jeffrey Brook, Senior Research Scientist, Environment Canada; Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto