Breathe Heathrow: Democratising air data to meet local needs

Breathe Heathrow uses air quality sensors to help residents understand how the airport affects their area, bringing more data into the hands of communities to address local needs

Breathe Heathrow in a nutshell

London hosts some of the most polluted areas in the world. The city’s air pollution levels frequently breach EU safety limits and kill approximately 9,500 people annually as a result, according to King’s College London.

Heathrow Airport is the largest air terminus in the UK and is a major source of air pollution in London.

Breathe Heathrow is an air monitoring project run by Internet-of-Things company OpenSensors, designed to help Heathrow residents understand the air quality and noise impacts the airport has on their local areas.

With funding and support from the Open Data Institute, the Breathe Heathrow team deployed air quality and noise sensors in the gardens of volunteers who live around Heathrow – under windowsills, on the sides of sheds and beneath garden tables – to collect data that can help measure the environmental impact of the airport.

Through this project, Breathe Heathrow has shown local authorities how they can use data-driven open data methodologies for planning and development, and highlighted some challenges that come with building smart cities at scale.

Breathe Heathrow has proven that sensors depend on good connectivity, power supply and remote management. With enough sensors, careful deployment and peer-to-peer networks, community sensor projects and smart city initiatives can expand and have greater impacts.

Breathe Heathrow is ultimately a story of democratising data sources, encouraging the set-up of more community-driven sensor networks, rather than just institutional deployment, to bring more data into the hands of communities to address local needs.

The Breathe Heathrow team
  • Yodit Stanton, Founder and CEO, OpenSensors.io
  • James Moulding, Community Manager, OpenSensors.io
  • Natalia Oskina, Junior Developer, OpenSensors.io
  • S2DS PHD team