University of Helsinki and Nokia Bell Labs develop smart 5G technology to monitor air quality

The University of Helsinki and Nokia Bell Labs are developing a technology which uses the 5G network to generate precise, smart real-time data on the environment and air quality.

“Finland has top-notch experts both in atmospheric and data sciences and in 5G development. Through the interdisciplinary MegaSense cooperation project, we can significantly improve air quality monitoring, which in turn will enable increasingly precise data for decision-making,” says Professor Sasu Tarkoma, head of the University of Helsinki’s Department of Computer Science.

The goal of the MegaSense project is to create a global monitoring system that can provide exact data on air quality and harmful substances in the air. The resulting information could also be used in a variety of devices in cars, at home or at the office. 

“We are also working on mobile applications which would enable all of us to increase our wellbeing through air quality data,” says Tarkoma.

Global air quality monitoring

 The MegaSense project is based on a dense network of air quality sensors covering an urban area to detect air polluters and develop a real-time overview of air quality. The results from the sensors are supplemented by data from the University of Helsinki’s SMEAR research stations in Finland and China. All data are then combined and processed via the 5G network.

The project uses existing air pollution map and prediction models which also consider wind direction and the location of the air quality sensors. The calibrated air quality data and the information refined from it can also be used in a variety of applications almost in real time.

“The opportunity for real-time updates could provide a business idea for some companies,” believes Tarkoma.

“The Green Path” is a visual consumer app

In the future, air quality sensors could be very small.

“This means that the technology could be used in urban planning, for example, or in wellbeing and health applications as well as in products relating to air conditioning, smart windows, various mobile devices, phone apps and HD maps,” lists Sasu Tarkoma.

One of the first potential consumer applications is the “Green Path”, which offers visualised air quality information.

In the cloud in Bejing

The first MegaSense pilot is currently ongoing at the University of Helsinki’s Kumpula Campus. There the air quality sensors have been connected to Nokia’s NetLeap/NDAC network as a cloud service, and the data processing and application use take place in a local cloud server.

The next pilot will be arranged in Beijing. There the goal is to create an extensive environmental measuring system based on the 5G network to monitor air quality and the environment.

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