Smart Sensors Bring Breath Of Fresh Air To IAQ Management Solutions

IoT-enabled smart sensors offer a low cost, easy to deploy solution to facilities looking to improve air quality management.

By Marc Pégulu and Michael Welzel

If there’s one thing we’ve learned following the pandemic, it’s that viruses are everywhere. From everyday surfaces to – and more commonly, might we add – floating in the air we breathe. Viruses and pathogens are transmitted from person to person at an alarming rate. In fact, COVID-19 is transmitted predominantly through the air, especially in indoor environments, according to the CDC. As such, it’s extremely important that businesses and communities prioritize improving indoor air quality (IAQ) moving into 2022.

Even before the pandemic, consumers paid attention to IAQ because of asthma and allergy diagnoses. With more businesses returning to the office, large arenas opening their doors to full capacity, and people feeling more comfortable to navigate indoor spaces, consumers’ awareness of IAQ is at its highest. And as expected, consumer awareness is driving interest in technology solutions that can effectively measure and analyze indoor air and environmental quality to keep individuals safe and healthy.

IoT-enabled smart sensors
(Photo: AdobeStock)

Employee Health And Safety

There are a number of reasons why companies adopt indoor air and environment quality sensors. For starters, they equip facilities with the tools needed to support the health and safety of employees. Sensors placed indoors can monitor air quality, airflow, and test air levels for air pollutants from carbon monoxide to excessive dust and humidity. With real-time analytics, companies can gather data on air conditions around the clock to ensure employees are functioning in a safe environment.

Leading The Charge With Long Range, Low Power Technologies

Growing interest in smart building technologies has led many to adopt IoT-enabled solutions. Built on wireless communication interfaces such as LoRa®, Wi-Fi, and NB-IoT, IoT-enabled sensors can be integrated into buildings easily. While more traditional options can be costly to install, long-range, low-power connectivity solutions offer a completely different approach by allowing seamless, easy-to-deploy integration into existing buildings.

Semtech’s recent collaboration with IQnexus is a good example of this. The collaboration uses sensors integrated with Semtech’s long-range, low-power LoRa devices to help facility managers monitor air quality in real time. These devices run via the LoRaWAN® standard which enables the sensors to wirelessly communicate with systems running standard building automation protocols including BACnet and Modbus via the on-premise or Cloud based IoT platform of IQnexus. The combination of the LoRa technology with LoRaWAN also provides IQnexus with an effective, always-on solution that can accurately track, monitor, and deliver data to buildings owners to keep individuals safe and healthy.

Implementation of indoor air and environmental quality sensors is made easy with IoT, as they are small and made to fit in hard-to-reach areas such as ceilings. Leveraging long- range, low-power solutions, these sensors can penetrate dense building materials up to three miles and have a life span of up to 20 years. This not only reduces costs associated with building maintenance but make for smooth, easy deployment.

Smart Cities And Buildings

As we look to the future, we can expect air quality management to play a large role in smart city development. Maintaining the air quality of cities will also have a positive impact on IAQ as it takes into account the external environment for a specified area. The installation of long-range, low-power sensors within smart cities can help facilitate the exchange of information between indoor and outdoor environments from air quality management to other services such as lighting, parking, flooding, and more. This can reduce maintenance, costs, and deployment issues to benefit end users and the environment.

Environmental Benefits

With the capability of identifying the source and type of pollutants present in the air, air quality monitoring sensors enable facilities to address the problem at the source. This is extremely beneficial to not only employee health and safety but for sustaining a healthy planet. Decreasing emissions reduces greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Data derived from air quality management sensors can be used to understand how pollution affects people, the environment, and mortality rates in specific geographic locations.

IoT-enabled smart sensors offer a low cost, easy-to-deploy solution to facilities looking to improve air quality management. In the future, we expect smart sensors will continue to be a more accessible and widely accepted standard of air quality and environmental monitoring as smart homes, cities, and buildings adopt this technology, and individuals place a greater focus on protecting the environment.

Long-Term Employee Benefits

While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly raised the awareness on the importance of indoor air quality monitoring for health and safety, there was another unexpected benefit. Companies have now become more educated on the long-term benefits for their employee productivity through the correct regulation of temperature and carbon dioxide levels monitoring within their workplace. Wireless communication technologies, such as LoRa, can be easily implemented to ensure their employees are healthy and happier in the long term.

IoT-enabled smart sensors

Marc Pégulu is Vice President of IoT Strategy and Products at Semtech. Michael Welzel is Chief Technology Officer at IQnexus.

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