It is a proven fact that human survival is hinged on the way our body interacts with our environment. In essence, by determining the state of our biological processes and the environmental factors that affect them, we can enhance the quality of our lives.
From the weather to the noise levels, our health is subject to a host of environmental factors. Environmental monitoring is, perhaps, not new to you, but its growing applicability in personal health, as well as its increased accuracy and cost-effectiveness, is garnering a new wave of positive press.
What are Personal Environmental Monitoring Devices?
Personal environmental monitoring devices are designed to measure temperature, humidity, air quality, and noise. Personal environmental monitoring devices are increasingly becoming more accurate and cost-effective and they now come with a flexible form factor that supports sampling protocols. These are much more expensive to implement through traditional methods.
The Scale and Scope of Environmental Monitoring
Usually, environmental monitoring is mostly focused on the detection of chemical, biological, and radiological contamination in water, soil, and water. Other key environmental interests covered by the scope of environmental monitoring include temperature, air quality, and noise levels.
Over the past decades, environmental monitoring has mostly been implemented on a large scale through in-situ representative sampling (grab sampling). This sampling methodology entails the collection of large samples in labeled sample containers or gas bags that are stored in controlled environmental conditions and transported to labs for analyses.
This environmental monitoring methodology incorporates highly reliable techniques like chromatography and mass spectroscopy. This enables laboratories to make thorough-going analyses of sites of interest, and also facilitates environmental regulatory activities, especially in air-quality control.
But despite its high level of accuracy, this sampling methodology is laborious, slow, expensive, and non-scalable. However, as the growing demand for more cost-effective environmental monitoring technologies has continued to propel innovations in this field, the use of relatively cheaper wireless sensors on a wider variety of scales is becoming more prevalent.
The sensor-based environmental monitoring technologies deploy electrochemical, semiconductor and optical techniques to establish the state of various environmental variables. This facilitates a more discrete and scalable methodology for monitoring environmental interests suitable for use by individuals as well as organizations and regulatory bodies.
Some Ground-Breaking Personal Environmental Monitoring Devices
Recently, a team of engineers from Rutgers University, New Brunswick, developed a smart wristband with sensors and a wireless connection to smartphones. According to the team, the innovation is a breakthrough that will give rise to a new generation of crash-hot personal health and environmental monitoring devices.
The device comes with a biosensor that detects various organic and inorganic particles, including blood cells and bacteria. A plastic wristband wearable that integrates a flexible circuit board, a micro-controller, a Bluetooth model, a biosensor with a channel, and gold electrodes, this smart wristband, supercharges our ability to monitor personal health. The device is capable of measuring the vital signs of the body, as well as other biological parameters like the amounts of various cells in the bloodstream.
The flexible circuit board processes electric signals, while the micro-controller digitizes data, and the Bluetooth facilitates the wireless transmission of data. The device obtains blood samples through pinpricks, and passes the blood through the channel to count blood cells, and then sends data wirelessly to a smartphone which processes and displays the data via an app.
This revolutionizes the way blood-related ailments are diagnosed and treated. The device also measures the level of exposure to dust and toxic particles, and this can be of great import to miners and others working in harsh environments.
The integration of smartphones in environmental monitoring devices is providing low-cost sensor-based environmental monitoring solutions. For instances, the microphone of smart devices is being used to track ambient noise by environmental monitoring applications.
The inbuilt GPS functionalities of smartphones enable the collection of geo-tagged data, which is a crucial parameter for crowdsourced environmental monitoring programs. Some devices deploy pattern-recognition modules to proffer suggestions about how users can improve their environment, like increasing a room’s ventilation to improve oxygen levels and reduce CO2.
These pattern-recognition modules proffer the prospects of obtaining suggestions concerning not only environmental interests but physiological and psychological factors as well from smart-devices.
The Future of Personal Environmental Monitoring Devices
In the future, the models of personal environmental monitoring devices will include not only those that incorporate sensors and smart devices but also those that use organic and natural materials. For instance, the Danish Design School, in collaboration with Alexandra Institute and Forster Rohner, is on to a dress that deploys LED lights to visualize CO2 levels. In this dress, the rate of LED flashes is dependent on the amount of CO2 in the air.
There are other developments vying to integrate materials whose attributes, including color, polarity, and porosity, adjust to suit environmental variables.
Personal environmental monitoring devices offer illuminating insights that can help elevate personal health. Also, with the availability of affordable sensor technologies, we can deploy environmental data in a more comprehensive way to improve our health and wellbeing.