8. Environmental Issues: How can you get involved?

Advancements in the fields of science and technology have caused the price of tech start-ups to dramatically decrease over the last decade. Thanks to innovative crowdfunding platforms and the availability of mass amounts of data that is readily accessible on the web, we have seen an abundance of new creative apps, gadgets, and automated devices.

A popular trend right now includes taking everyday objects and giving them new life by connecting them to the Internet for remote access, otherwise known as The Internet of Things or IoT. There is an endless list of products that have already been modified for remote access including popular items such as watches, lamps, cameras, and various home security components, to name a few.

Commercial grade equipment is essentially being replicated through the use of microcomputers for consumer use at affordable prices. Every day people are gaining access to micro-computing equipment as both engineers and hobbyists coming up with their own creations. Arduino kits and knock-offs are becoming more and more popular for this type of micro-computing.

[More: To fight global warming, you must eat more hamburgers]

7. Environmental Monitoring

Environmental scientists have received government funding for a wide array of studies to determine how waste management, emissions, and our growing population could potentially affect future environmental conditions.

Other specific government funded studies to advance scientific discoveries include those in which $5.9 million is being invested in the Department of Energy for a project to advance utilization strategies for novel CO2 while another $662 million is being invested in Biological and Environmental Research alone.

Consequently, ongoing studies executed by private government entities and educational facilities over the years have provided enough information to support the necessity for certain government mandated regulations on transportation, waste management, and emissions to keep from severely damaging the environment.

For example, The Clean Air Act regulates mobile and stationary sources of pollution. The Clean Water Act regulates quality standards for surface water and limits practices that could pollute our water supplies.

6. The Opposition of Global Warming

Currently, a huge topic of debate within the realm of environmental protections is the appointment of a cabinet member, Scott Pruitt, who openly opposes the existence of Global Warming. Regardless of what anyone believes about Global Warming, there is existing quantifiable data that has been analyzed by experts that support the need for certain regulations to maintain a livable environment. This is why protections such as The Clean Air Act and The Clean Water Act exist.

Pruitt’s mission is to remove government regulations as an attempt to shift manufacturing from overseas back to the United States to create more jobs, ultimately in hopes of stimulating the economy.

Critics are concerned that this could cause worsened conditions of air and water pollution. Some fear that eventually, the United States could see air pollution at the hazardous levels that China has been experiencing. In fact, it has been reported that there is even concern that the Western part of the U.S. is even beginning to be affected by China’s air pollution problem.

5. Tracking Air Quality

There is, however, an easy way for those concerned with air quality to keep track of it in real-time. A Real Time Air Quality Visual Map of the United States can be found here, along with real-time air quality maps of other countries. 9,000 out of 20,000 air quality monitoring stations are published here to give a real-time measurement of the air quality in the U.S.

Critics are concerned that environmental issues such as poor air quality could lead to serious life-threatening health conditions for those living in urban areas. Some fear that removing regulations for environmental protections could not only negatively affect air quality but could also do a number on the natural water supply. Many also fear that the oil spills could result from the implementation of major pipelines such as the Dakota Access Pipeline across the U.S.

4. The Problem of Major Oil Spills

Historically the U.S. has seen several major oil spills that have caused extensive damage to marine life, animals, and water supplies of several communities in the affected areas. Since 1969 there have been at least 44 major oil spills.

These spills can be very costly to fix and can take years to clean up. They are even still assessing damage caused by a major oil spill that happened 25 years ago. The Exxon Valdez oil spill damaged at least 28 different species of plants, animals, and marine life.

3. Advancements in Technology

Advancements in technology have directly contributed to new scientific discoveries, and new scientific discoveries have conversely led to advancements in technology. There are several emerging devices now with high relevance for practical use for monitoring environmental conditions. The outcome of certain factors that could adversely affect our environment might be easier to predict with use of these devices.

The demand for specialized products that cater to a unique niche has been created to address the growing concern for monitoring and protecting limited environmental resources.

Instruments that measure air quality are now being marketed to consumers in the form of affordable automated hand-held devices. These devices are being designed to give convenient access to information that could help provide peace of mind for users wherever they go. These emerging automated devices could even be used to gather quantitative data to help your average consumer get involved with battling threats of environmental damage themselves.

There are currently several stationary air quality monitors on the market now, but more personal, portable air quality monitors are starting to catching on. We have yet to see portable water quality devices for consumers. However, considering that Arduino has a large collection of affordable sensors and an open source platform that more and more hobbyists and engineers are getting involved with, it shouldn’t be much further down the line.

2. Portable Air Quality Monitors

The Airbeam is geared towards community involvement and building maps with recorded data. It measures PM2.5 matter and uses a service that is hosted by a non-profit called Air-Casting to share atmospheric data on live maps. It even has Arduino-based connectable LED wearables that will connect to it to provide a more interactive indication of air quality. The Air-Beam is a bit bulky, expensive at $249.00, and has been on the market for a while.

There is also currently a portable hand-held device called the Atmotube, that is set to hit the market this month, March 2017. It measures temperature, VOC’s, CO, and humidity. It launched in 2015 and was originally exclusively available to IndieGoGo backers until it reached its funding goal in January 2016. The Atmotube is sleek, small, portable and is set to cost around $89.00. It also includes access to a type of shared global air quality map.

There is another interesting portable air quality monitoring device that is designed to fit on the back of a Motorola Z but is compatible with any smartphone. It’s called the INHALE and it has already exceeded its monetary goal. It is set to be funded on IndieGoGo next month, April 2017. Then, it is projected to hit the market in a little over a year after that. The INHALE measures PM 2.5, Ozone, CO2, humidity, temperature, and pollen. It also has a social function that generates a map of these readings to for easy sharing.

There are several more devices emerging right now that conveniently measure air quality and that could help to provide more data to help assess environmental issues. However, it looks like we will have to wait a little while for a portable device that measures water quality and other environmental factors as well.

1. Using Portable Air Quality Monitors to Make a Difference

What is most interesting about each of these devices is the fact that they all come with an interactive social map of some type. Potentially, manufacturers could use this data to help supplement current environmental measurements.

This could help consumers to not only get peace of mind about the air quality of places they frequent, but it could also help them to feel empowered that they are doing something to help supplement useful data for a better assessment of environmental related issues. 

Regardless of what these manufacturers do with the data, these gadgets can still be used to assess environmental issues for personal safety and peace of mind and that’s pretty remarkable.

[More: Global Ice Age: Dissecting the Impact of a Frozen World]




  1. That’s a really cool idea. It will be nice when they come out with portable water quality monitoring devices. I’m sure it won’t be too long since you know, like you said, there are tons of people picking up these Arduino kits making new stuff all of the time. Good article!


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