Helsinki to test a new smart solution for street dust – sensors in street sweepers will measure the air quality on streets

Artikkelikuva: Helsinki to test a new smart solution for street dust – sensors in street sweepers will measure the air quality on streets

Tests on air quality sensors installed in maintenance equipment are ongoing in Helsinki. Real-time information about air quality during grit clearance helps to minimise the amount of street dust.

The annual season for street dust is once again straining the residents of Helsinki. On busy roads and streets, the content of respirable particulate matter may be up to ten times the usual values. The risk for developing asthma and the mortality rate are both increased, and even those in good general health may suffer shortness of breath, infections, and pneumonia. 

The City of Helsinki’s innovation company Forum Virium Helsinki and the Helsinki City Construction Services Stara are currently testing a new precision measurement method which will allow analysing the effects of grit clearance on air quality before the maintenance procedure, during it, and after it. The aim is to optimise the grit clearance operations in a way that creates as little dust as possible. 

“As we gather data on the street dust level during grit clearance, we will be able to affect the timing of the procedure, for example. How much earlier should the street be hosed down? How much water should be used? How long can the piled up grit wait on the street before being collected? This is the first time we are gaining insight on questions such as these,” says Forum Virium project manager Helmi Tuori

Air quality sensors required for problematic street dust areas

There are currently four fixed air quality measurement points in Helsinki, used to monitor the development of air quality in the city: in the centre, on Mäkelänkatu, in Vartiokylä, and in Kallio. In 2023, a further temporary measurement point was located in Tapanila. In addition, seven sensor measurement points for respirable particles are located along main streets and routes.

Street dust is mostly created by traffic, but also by grit clearance. Several vehicles participate in grit clearance on any particular street, such as the watering truck, brush vehicle, street sweeper, and a washer. When sensors are installed on Stara’s mobile maintenance equipment, the amount of street dust from maintenance operations can be decreased, which affects the local air quality. 

The experiment is testing air quality sensors from Swarco Finland Oy. The experiment is part of the LiiDi2 joint project by Forum Virium Helsinki and Stara, which aims to pilot new data collection methods and recognise data-based business potential together with various companies.

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