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IoT to monitor air quality in Chinese Langfang

A mix of technologies and expertise are needed to connect the things to Internet. Sensors perceive the environment. Wired and wireless communication are used to distribute data. Computers control the system, make calculations and present results.

Some of the companies within Internet of Things strive to offer as much as possible on their own. Others believe in cooperation.

Hectronic’s customer Realin is a great example of the latter. Realin’s cloud service and HMI are integrated with Hectronic’s H1502 Box PC and the company Pegasor’s sensor systems. The result is the product Pegasor AQ Urban which is installed in the Chinese city Langfang to measure air quality.

The company Realin has its origin from research at Tampere University of Technology in Finland. Research had resulted in leading edge sensor technology. Hardware and software to be able to put the sensors to use were missing on the market.
- We developed a platform so that the customers don’t need to know anything about the underlying technology and still benefit from a variety of sensors, says Jukka Suhonen, Managing Director at Realin.

Believing in open interfaces

The year was 2013. Today the company has four employees, an open attitude and the expertise when it comes to connecting sensors independent of supplier, collect and analyze data and to present the result on their customer’s mobile, laptop and computer. Realin is a software company. 
We see ourselves as a central data integrator and we believe in open interfaces so that data can be integrated quite easily, says Jukka Suhonen.
Realin Ltd is a Finnish company that provides software and cloud services for utilizing sensor data in processes and products. The company is specialized in sensor data management, sensor system integrations, sensor data analytics, and web applications.
Pegasor Oy (Ltd) was founded in 2008 to commercialize a breakthrough innovation in fine- and nanoparticle sensor technologies.
The Realin offer matched what Pegasor require. Pegasor manufactures sensors measuring nanometers-sized particles in the air. The technology is spot on now when research and awareness indicates the importance of clean air for human health. China is a major market.  

Collecting data and communicating with the cloud

Pegasor AQ Urban uses the Hectronic H1502 Box PC as a gateway to collect data from the particle sensors and for communication with the Realin cloud service. The system is mounted outdoors and has to work independently in harsh environments with prolonged service and maintenance periods.
The Hectronic H1502 was the ideal choice for our IoT Gateway because of its processing power, connectivity and maintenance freedom, says Jukka Suhonen.
For maintenance freedom the Hectronic H1502 has been equipped with real-time system diagnostics and firmware updates. An internal onboard GSM modem handles wireless communication. By adding the proper SIM card the system is easily adapted for use in countries worldwide.
Hectronic H1502
• Intel Atom D2550/N2800/N2600
• Up to 4GB DDR3 onboard
• 4x USB
• 1x or 2x COM
• 2x Ethernet
• DVI or HDMI and VGA
• CE, FCC and UL certifications
Hectronic H1502 is used as a gateway to gather data and communicate with the Realin cloud service. The cloud service stores data, validates it, analyzes and fill in the blanks. The installation of Pegasor AQ Urban in the Chinese city of Langfang is used to monitor air pollution in real-time. The particle levels are visible to officials through Realin’s web application. It’s adapted to work as a part of Pegasor AQ Urban. 

Prolonging service intervals

Pegasor offers sensor technology, sensors and systems for use within stack emission or engine emission and air quality monitoring. 
Our main area today is air quality measuring and monitoring, says Juha Tanskanen Director, Sales and Distribution Network at Pegasor.
Pegasor AQ Urban is mounted outdoors and uses the Hectronic H1502 (right hand image) as a gateway connecting the particle sensor to the cloud service.
The competitive edge of the Pegasor offer is the ability to detect and measure the concentrations of the fine and ultrafine particles, in the size range of micrometer and down to nanometers. Many of the competing technologies are optical which is a limitation when it comes to detecting ultrafine particles. Pegasor’s sensor technology on the other hand involves electrically charging the particles and measure the current that particles carry while passing through a Faraday cage.
The benefit of that is that there are no parts that gets dirty and requires cleaning, says Juha Tanskanen.
Therefore the service interval is as long as a year. The optical competition requires cleaning of the lenses with an interval of a couple of months.

Detecting even smaller particles

The health consequences of inhaling particles of about 2.5µm are in focus today, but research are beginning to suggest that particles as small as 1µm makes up the greater health hazard for humans partly because their passing through the lungs and into the blood stream.  
All the standards today are fine tuned for 2.5µm, says Juha Tanskanen. The reason for that is that it’s easy measurable with the current devices. We expect that the discussion about the less than 1µm range will increase and our sensors are the most sensitive in that area.
Realin’s web application is a solution for online services. It presents data reports, graphs, controls and handles alarm functionality.
Cities eager to monitor and improve air quality are potential customers. Hotels in cities with polluted air are also targeted and will definitely be interested in the version of Pegasor AQ Urban about to be released. It measures the amount of particles in the indoor as well as the outdoor air and offers the possibility for comparison of the too. Hotels use filtering to improve air quality and need to show to customers that advantage somehow.  
Some hotels even have higher rates for rooms with proven better air quality, he says.

Buying data in the future

This is a great example of how Internet of Things is going to impose change now and in the future. Jukka Suhonen at Realin makes predictions on what cooperation and greater openness will lead to within Internet of Things and how sensors and their data are used. 
We think that companies will no longer be protective of their data, he says. System integrators install the sensors and sell the data and thereby there can be more companies using the same data source.
If he’s correct new applications will not necessarily require their own sensors. There will always be the possibility to buy relevant data from existing sensors. One indication of just that is that weather data now is made free to use by anyone within the European Union. Let’s keep an open attitude towards possibilities with Internet of Things and cooperate to turn them into reality.

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