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Revolutionary air quality monitors to be installed at the port

It might just look like a standard grey box that you see attached to lampposts everywhere – however, this one contains something special.

This ‘smart box’ measures air pollutants, tailored to the marine environment. Shipping information and local weather data is integrated into the smart box to create a picture of environmental effect of port operations.

These data snapshots will help the port plan its future operations so it can minimise environmental impact locally and across the city. The smart boxes use a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) to communicate, so require no other infrastructure aside from a simple power supply to begin collecting data.

The first one has now been installed at the port for testing, with a further 4 to be rolled out across the site. The boxes measure nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide alongside fine particle sensing for PM2.5 and PM10 sized particulate matter.

Smart air quality sensor

Once the project is completed, the information will be used to inform port operations so that air pollution can be reduced at peak times. It will also help shape the port’s carbon reduction and air quality improvement plans.

Portsmouth International Port is working with Hampshire-based technologists B4T, who specialise in the “internet-of-things (IoT)” technology platform, on which this project is based.

This project is part of the port’s bold carbon reduction and air quality improvement ambitions, which they hope will ultimately help Portsmouth to become one of the UK’s first zero-emission ports.

Jerry Clarke, senior project manager and assistant harbour master at Portsmouth International Port said: “The port is owned by the people of Portsmouth, so we have a greater duty than any port to control and reduce the impact of port operations on the local environment and our neighbours.

“This initiative has the potential to provide significant information to the port on the effect of port operations, and will blaze a trail for air quality transparency across the maritime sector. We’re delighted to work with B4T on this low cost, long term solution for air quality monitoring at the port.”

Smart air quality sensor being installed

Alex Barter, MD of B4T added: “This project with our Solent neighbours Portsmouth International Port, reminds me of why B4T does what it does. With clients who really care about and commit to positive impact on the environment, we are making our mark in our own little way, with IoT technology that we are so passionate about.”

Cllr Dave Ashmore, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change said: “Air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today. We all have an important part to play in making the air around us cleaner and collectively we can make a difference.

“This is a fantastic step forward for the port, who I know recognise their role in helping improve the city’s air quality, alongside the other council activities that we are bringing forward to address air pollution from vehicles.”

The project is due to be completed in spring 2021. This innovative project is being funded by Interreg 2 SEAS funds from the PECS (Ports Energy and Carbon Savings) project. It is being undertaken in collaboration with the Port of Ostende, where similar smart box air quality sensors are being fitted.