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Dyson investigates the effect of lockdown on air pollution

Dyson announces global project using wearable air monitoring technology to investigate air quality changes in cities during and after the COVID-19 lockdown period.

May 27 2020

Dyson's air quality backpack, which includes on-board sensors, a battery pack and GPS.

Participants in 14 cities globally will wear Dyson’s air quality backpack to collect air quality data, generating snapshots of their personal exposure to air pollution during and after lockdown.

Dyson’s air quality backpack, which was developed for a research study with Kings College London and the Greater London Authority, has on-board sensors, a battery pack and GPS, allowing data to be collected on the go. Re-working existing sensing technology used in Dyson air purifiers, engineers designed the portable air monitoring device, engineering it to be smaller, lighter, and more portable, whilst still accurately capturing PM2.5, PM10 and VOC and NO2 exposure.

The global project spans three continents and 14 cities, which include London, New York, Delhi and Milan. The collected data will be compared with local city air quality sensor data and indoor air quality data from Dyson’s connected purifiers, to develop a picture of the changes in air quality in cities globally throughout this period.

Phase one will involve participants wearing the backpack to collect air quality data during lockdown. In line with local government guidelines, participants will wear the backpack during permitted lockdown travel whether that be a visit to the grocery store, daily exercise routine or a key worker’s commute. This data will give us a snapshot of the air quality the participant is exposed to on a typical day in lockdown.

Once the restrictions in cities have been lifted, phase two will commence. Participants will travel with the backpack on the same route as that travelled during lockdown, to build a second snapshop of air pollution exposure outside of the lockdown period. Dyson engineers will compare these two data sets, to better understand the effect of lockdown on the day-to-day air quality exposure of individuals living in cities.

To ensure the accuracy of the outdoor backpack sensor data, readings from city monitoring stations will be gathered to further validate the findings. Using anonymised data from its connected purifiers, which amass over 1.9m globally, Dyson will also explore broader trends in indoor air pollution levels during this period.

The combined data sets will help to give an indication of the effect of lockdown on indoor and outdoor air pollution in cities globally, bolstered by findings from the pre-existing static outdoor air quality sensor network. Available outdoor air quality data from these sources indicate a reduction in NO2 levels in major cities under lockdown, possibly due to the decline in diesel vehicles on the roads as a result of the lockdown restrictions.

"While it has been widely reported that air quality in some cities has improved during the lockdown period, initial data insights from Dyson’s connected purifiers* indicate a small but consistent increase in indoor NO2 and VOC levels in cities during lockdown. It will be interesting to monitor these changes as cities emerge from lockdown status, to further understand the factors that impact both indoor and outdoor air quality."
- Alex Knox, Vice President of Environmental Care at Dyson

*Data from registered Dyson connected purifiers in 11 cities spanning four continents (Europe, Asia, North America & Oceana).