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Creating an eco-friendly Kenya using sensors


Did you know that seven million people lose their lives annually from air pollution and that 90% of people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is one of the top ten risk factors causing deaths in Kenya, estimating 23,000 annual deaths attributed to household air pollution.

Air pollution is a significant issue and organizations like The International Union of Air Pollution Prevention and Environmental Protection Associations (IUAPPA) have devised different solutions aiming to monitor and constrain the effects of air pollution. Notable initiatives like the Nairobi Air Quality Action Plan (2019-2023) have also made strides to deal with air pollution as they aim to provide data on the actual status of air pollution. However, they face difficulties getting the sensors and monitors they devised working in real-time sufficiently for a long period.

In order to remedy this, the @iLabAfrica Internet of Things (IoT) department has devised a prototype system that improves the air monitor systems, constructing them with the capabilities of capturing consistent, quality data for days on end. These systems contain sensor nodes which act as air quality sensors that capture and monitor air pollutants. The Internet of Things department set out to practically examine the effectiveness of the sensors, installing a gateway which provides a “low power wide area network”. This network allows the sensor nodes to monitor and track air quality regarding pollution. The gateway (LoRaWAN) was installed on the Strathmore University grounds, allowing the IoT department to track air pollution around Strathmore University and anywhere within a 5KM radius of the gateway. The sensors can track pollutants such as Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), Nitrogen (IV) Oxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM2.5, PM10).

As Kenya is becoming more industrialized by the day, communities in heavily industrialized areas such as Baba Dogo, Syokimau, Athi River and Dandora have over the years continued to complain about air pollution. If environmental officials are to pin down the major causes of air pollution, they will need to identify the exact kind of pollutants being emitted. If these monitors can track and identify specific pollutants, they will be able to identify where they come from, thus implementing the right strategies to eradicate the problem.

“Data collected from the sensor nodes will help environment officials assess the impacts caused by poor air quality and help identify which areas in Nairobi deal with high levels of pollution,” said Stephen Gitahi, IoT Software Developer @iLabAfrica.

This system will help officials implement effective strategies for mitigating air pollution. In return, this will keep all organisms in every ecosystem on Earth healthy and working properly throughout different life cycles. We will also have the ability to preserve our water resources by preventing acid rains caused by pollutants as well as safeguarding the health and wellbeing of thousands of lives.

When asked about how it could benefit other policymakers and officials aware of the problem, Stephen stated that “We can devise control measures that will not only protect the health and wellbeing of our population but also protect the ecosystems & and the existence of all living organisms.”

Moreover, the installation of the LoRaWAN gateway gives other researchers and students in the university an opportunity to deploy their own projects and research works around these networks as they are open networks. They can work on tracking other components like ambience, temperature or humidity. These sensors can track more than just air as they could help researchers analyze different environmental components.

The application of these sensors will prove to be a breakthrough in dealing with the impacts of air pollution, along with maintaining a delicate balance in our ecosystems.


This article was written by John Wakhu.


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