Residents test air quality from their own backyards


If you’re sensing smoke in the air, you’re not the only one. Several air quality sensors throughout the city are reporting poor air quality due to the B.C. fires that have been rampaging through B.C. since July 7.

The sensors are part of a pilot project under St. Albert’s smart city initiative.

Coral Taylor, presenter from SensorUp, says the sensors are so sensitive that it can change from good air quality to poor air quality just by barbecuing in the backyard.

“They will shoot up, like mine shoots up when I cook bacon,” she says.

With crews fighting more than 220 wildfires across B.C., it’s not surprising that the smoke has made its way into Alberta.

On Monday Alberta Health Services issued a precautionary air quality advisory for the Edmonton area.

By Tuesday afternoon 25 of the pilot air quality sensors recorded data showing air quality ranged between good and unhealthy.

A total of 10 sensors showed good air quality, 11 showed moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups and one showed unhealthy air quality.

In all, 25 people were chosen to participate in a workshop on Saturday and put together the sensors.

The city had about 50 applications to participate in the pilot project. Each of the 25 participants was chosen to represent a variety of places in the city.

Councillor and smart city advocate Cathy Heron says the pilot project is an exciting new chapter for St. Albert.

“If we can do things more efficiently in this city then we don’t have to spend and waste money and you avoid duplications,” she says. “This is really the beginning for St. Albert.”

The sensors will be set up outside people’s homes and will collect data on air quality.

Every five minutes SensorUp, a company based out of Calgary that provided the sensors, will receive real-time readings of temperature, humidity and PM2.5 (particulate matter) levels.

The information will be updated on a SensorUp website.

Travis Peter, manager of St. Albert’s smart city and innovation department, says the pilot project will help with the city’s ongoing efforts to increase open data available for residents.

It will also push the city forward in its smart city initiatives, increase public engagement and improve city services.

“The primary reason that we’re doing this is to engage the public in a smart city initiative,” he says.

The pilot project is costing the city around $5,000 and will last until March 2019.

Jonathan Hiron, participant in the pilot project, says he has an interest in smart homes and he has a love for technology.

“I thought it was a good way to help the city and get involved with the community,” he says.

Hiron says he plans on setting it up in his front yard since he’s concerned about his fire pit in the backyard, which could affect the readings.

Since the sensors are so sensitive, residents are advised to look at a few sensors throughout the city to determine whether St. Albert has an air quality issue.

Sandy Fitzgerald, pilot participant, says setting up the sensor was a little challenging but adds that she’s looking forward to participating in the project.

“I think this a really great initiative by the City of St. Albert, it’s really progressive,” she says.

To view the map and check out St. Albert’s air quality visit


About Author

Dayla Lahring

Dayla Lahring joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2017. She writes about business, health, general news and features. She also contributes photographs.