Embedded systems and the Internet of Things: Can low-cost gas sensors be used in risk assessment of occupational exposure?
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonJournal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. 2020, 17 (10), 495-503. 10.1080/15459624.2020.1798453
The Internet of Things (IoT) explores new perspectives and possible improvements in risk assessment practices and shows potential to measure long-term and real-time occupational exposure. This may be of value when monitoring gases with short-term maximum levels and for time-weighted average (TWA) concentrations used in standard measuring practices. A functional embedded system was designed using low-cost carbon monoxide (CO) electrochemical sensors and long-range-wide-area-network radio communication technology (LoRaWAN) was used to enable internet connectivity. This system was utilized to monitor gas levels continuously in the working atmosphere of an incineration plant over a 2-month period. The results show that stable and long-term continuous data transfer was enabled by LoRaWAN, which proved useful for detecting rapid changes in gas levels. However, it was observed that raw data from the low-cost sensors did not meet the NIOSH accuracy criteria of ± 25% of the estimated true concentration based on field data from a co-located gas detector that met the NIOSH accuracy criteria. The new IoT technologies and CO sensor networks shows potential for remote monitoring of exposure in order to: (1) detect rapid changes in CO and other possible hazardous airborne gases; and (2) show the dynamic range of real-time data that may be hazardous for workers in the sampled areas. While the IoT low-cost sensors appear to be useful as a sentinel for monitoring hazardous atmospheres containing CO, the more useful finding may be showing real-time changes and the dynamic range of exposures, thus shedding light on the transient and toxic nature of airborne hazards. More importantly, the low-cost CO sensors are not a clear substitute for the more costly real-time gas detectors that perform within the NIOSH accuracy criteria.