Innovative Technologies for Air Quality

NIWA is exploring the potential of new technologies for monitoring and sharing air quality data.

These projects aim to accelerate the reduction of emissions and improvement of air quality. The hope is that this can be achieved by producing more timely monitoring data, for more locations in a form that encourages citizen participation and engagement in the issues. New technologies offer a chance for citizens, businesses and agencies to work together to solve air quality problems.

This work has a particular focus on low-cost monitoring, integration of such devices into adaptive monitoring networks, data sharing and ‘data interventions’.

The Problem

Air quality monitoring has historically been very expensive. Consequently the coverage of any monitoring effort is always severely constrained by cost and only available to government agencies and large corporations. This tends to make air quality information unavailable, esoteric, impersonal and meaningless for most of the population. This creates a major barrier to the implementation of pollution control strategies. It also inhibits the ability of regulators and researchers to adequately diagnose air quality problems, understand the links between air quality and health, and develop effective policy.

The Solution

Low-cost air quality sensor technologies are developing rapidly. Since 2011, NIWA has used low-cost components to develop the PACMAN indoor air quality sensor package. This was joined in 2014 by the ODIN outdoor version. Our research has responded to public reaction to these pilot projects by expanding to consider how such technologies can be used in modular, adaptive networks to address a wide range of questions which may arise from regulators, businesses, communities or individuals. A range of demonstration projects are now planned to progressively expand what can be done with this sort of technology. A key part of this is the ‘data intervention’ study in which the use of technology to effect positive change is tested.


Phases of this work include (click on the links below to find more information on each of these phases):


Gustavo Olivares
NIWA Air Quality Scientist
Page last updated: 
4 October 2016

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NIWA’s low-cost ODIN air quality sensor package (foreground), alongside Auckland Council particulate monitors in Queen Street. [NIWA]

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NIWA’s low-cost ODIN air quality sensor package tied to a lamp post in Christchurch. [NIWA]