Cambridge councillors are to publish data on benzene emissions through the Internet to save money and reach a wider audience.
The pioneering system now being used is supplied by Cambridge industrial networking company Io. It is the blueprint for a future generation of remote machine monitoring and diagnostic systems intended to help keep factories running efficiently.
Previously the figures were displayed in an office window, so only seen by passers-by. Other would-be users, from researchers to asthma sufferers, had to telephone the council for the figures.
Staff at AEA Technology who run Netcen, the Department of the Environment’s national monitoring service, had to interrogate council equipment by telephone and modem every hour which was costly.
Now, Netcen (www.aeat.co.uk/airqual/) figures are compiled and updated automatically by Internet.
A box of electronics supplied by Io is wired to a gas monitoring instrument in the council air quality offices. It sends benzene measurements – which it converts into electronic mail – by the council’s Internet server to Netcen and to Io where the data is reproduced as graphs and bar charts.
Cambridge’s air quality Web site (www.io-ltd.co.uk/cc.html) publishes the data which is a source of information for Anglia Air Watch, a feature shown on local television.
Set-up costs for the Cambridge system were around £2,000, including an Ethernet link.