Bringing instant air monitoring to crisis situation

Israel-based company deploys new mobile, wireless air quality measurement module.

April 3, 2012 06:58
3 minute read.
Fire at Ra'anana factory

Fire at Ra'anana factory 370. (photo credit: Courtesy / Israel Police)

In the aftermath of a fire or other disaster, one consideration that often ends up on the backburner in the resultant chaos that befalls a city is air quality.

To account for this neglected need, AirBase Systems, an Israel- and Berlin-based environmental technology start-up, launched on Monday its new CanarIT S.O.S system, low-cost emergency air monitoring kits designed primarily for city use. The $20,000 kits, which are made up of 20 battery- operated CanarIT units, monitor levels of several noxious elements and can immediately transmit data to an Internet collection base, according to the company.

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The kits are particularly useful during large-scale accidents such as fires or factory explosions, in which plants suddenly emit high volumes of dangerous pollutants into the air.

“Dense cities are delicate places,” said Irad Kuhnreich, founder and CEO of AirBase Systems.

“Any pollution event can develop very easily into a serious health risk to the people. The capability of the emergency forces to manage the situation properly is based on real-time data from the city’s streets – and this is exactly what we have to offer at a price that is even lower than a regular, old-fashioned monitoring station.”

Managing these crises, particularly in dense urban areas, must be based on real time accurate data to save people’s lives, Kuhnreich added.

All of the research and development for the CanarIT occurred in Israel, and several of the systems have already been deployed on an experimental basis throughout the country. Meanwhile, Liad Ortar, vice president for marketing and business development at AirBase, said the company had heard from interested parties across the globe. The company recently held its first meeting with representatives of Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry to discuss selling units to the government office, and is in the process of preparing validations of their technology for the ministry, according to Ortar. Studies with the Technion and other professional research institutions around the world are also underway, he added.

The Environmental Protection Ministry confirmed to the The Jerusalem Post on Monday that representatives from the office did meet with an AirBase team, but did not provide further comment.

While the emergency kits are primarily for municipalities, the stationary individual units have achieved such a “significant drop in price” that the devices could be suitable for purchase by environmental NGOs or even individual families dealing with asthma and poor air quality, Ortar said Monday afternoon.

In either case, Ortar explained, the devices pick up data instantly and within 20 seconds feed information to the online server.

“This is why it’s so important for emergency services,” he said.

“It’s a matter of getting real-time readings from the surface to determine where the cloud of pollution has moved to.”

The emergency kit CanarIT units arrive in a waterproof shell similar to a briefcase, and are embedded with either GSM sensors and SIM cards or Wifi capabilities for immediate Internet connectivity and delivery to a data cloud. A stationary version of the unit, which requires a continuous electricity supply and costs $600, also became available recently and contains the same Internet connectivity abilities, explained Ortar.

“People do not have access to environmental information that directly affects the quality of life,” Ortar said. “We are opening up to the world of citizen science.”

Nanotechnology sensors in both the mobile emergency kit and stationary unit are able to measure levels of Ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), Total Volatile Organic Compounds (TVOC), particulate matter, relative humidity, temperature and noise, the company said. In order to expand the device’s capabilities for the future, the company’s Israel-based research and development team is developing other technologies to include in the device, including sensors for fine particles (PM2.5), light and odor.

Because events such as fires can be very dynamic, especially with winds deflected unnaturally in urban settings, the mobile emergency units can be ideal since they adjust to the geographical parameters of a place, Ortar said.

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