Announcing: Precision indoor & outdoor air quality monitoring in one device
Image: Another batch of monitors undergoing automated testing using ML gas models
When you or your client purchases an air quality monitor or a system that includes air quality monitoring, what assurance do you have about its performance?
Unlike reference instruments, there are no required air quality monitoring standards for indicative monitors (these are devices with reduced precision for more general monitoring). In addition, whilst there is no requirement for a manufacturer to seek independent testing of a device, the only performance certification available for indicative monitors in the UK is MCERTS (tested using EN16450), which is a certification for particulate monitoring only. At the time of writing, there are no approved test procedures for indicative monitoring of gases.
This presents a challenge for the purchaser and end-customer: they may be unaware of the lack of standards, assuming that all commercial air quality monitors undergo industry-based testing before going on sale. Or, if they are looking for certification, they can only find it for particulate monitoring. In addition, the information supplied by manufacturers tends to vary between highly technical (and often difficult for purchasers to make sense of) and highly subjective (in the form of case studies that ‘sell the sizzle’). There is precious little in the middle ground of verifiable independent performance data that a customer can use to make an informed decision.
Where air quality monitoring is needed for compliance and/or fed into ESG (environmental, social and governance) reporting, the absence of a universal quality bar for indicative monitors can be problematic. What assurance can be given that the data are accurate and what traceability do we have – and to what standards?
This is set to change with the imminent introduction of new EU Technical Specifications for indicative or ambient air quality monitors, which will finally give more assurance in selecting and purchasing air quality monitors.
The new air quality monitoring standards and what they mean for purchasers
There are two new standards coming into effect:
- EU performance standards CEN/TS 17660-1:2021 and CEN/TS 17660-2 for air quality monitoring systems using low-cost sensors.
- UK PAS (Publicly Available Specification) 4023 is a best practice specification and doesn’t provide testing or certification. It will point to the CEN/TS documentation.
PAS 4023 is expected to be published next year, however, it doesn’t offer any support or assurance on data quality. CEN/TS16670-1, which does create standards for data quality and device performance, is expected to come into force within the next 12-24 months.
The EU standard CEN/TS 17660-1:2021 applies to gaseous pollutants only (not particulates) and classifies monitors into class 1, class 2 and class 3. The highest performing (that is, with the highest precision) monitors are class 1 and the requirements for class 2 and class 3 monitors are progressively less stringent. CEN/TS 17660-2, to cover particulate monitoring, is due to come in after CEN/TS 17660-1..
From a corporate or public sector customer’s perspective, new performance standards will support compliance and ESG reporting. For utilities, construction companies and public authorities (among others), it’s vital to provide suitable evidence of compliance with air quality regulations. For companies looking to grow, they also need to be watchful of their environmental impact: investors are taking greater interest in ESG when making investment decisions. Certified devices meeting the new performance standards immediately remove any doubt about data quality.
In short, those manufacturers who are already meeting the new performance standards are reducing risk for their customers by removing uncertainty and making data quality and reporting as robust as possible.
How is South Coast Science upholding its commitment to data quality?
The downside of the new standards, of course, is that end-users may find their existing monitoring equipment on the wrong side of the performance standards. To avoid this for its customers, all South Coast Science monitors are already compliant with the new performance standards as evidenced by independent testing.
Precision that can be demonstrated has always been at the core of what South Coast Science does. Therefore, we have put a great deal of effort into demonstrating the precision of our air quality monitors, including:
- Development since 2019 of our proprietary machine-learning algorithm, using real-world data sets to correct for temperature and humidity variation
- A variety of collocation studies of our Praxis devices with reference instruments around the world to expand training models.
- Third-party validation of our Praxis/Urban and Praxis/Cube through relevant certification schemes.
This work represents a long-term commitment. Back in 2016, co-founders Bruno Beloff and Jamie Campbell realised there was a need for a provably accurate low-cost air quality monitor that took advantage of their machine learning skills. They have since worked with academics, environmental scientists and the UN to design monitors that work in real-world conditions.
Our readiness for the new UK and EU legislation is part of a 5-year business model that prioritises precision and independent validation of air quality monitoring data.