Modeling fine-grained spatio-temporal pollution maps with low-cost sensors

Shiva R. Iyer, Ananth Balashankar, William H. Aeberhard, Sujoy Bhattacharyya, Giuditta Rusconi, Lejo Jose, Nita Soans, Anant Sudarshan, Rohini Pande, Lakshminarayanan Subramanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of air quality monitoring networks to inform urban policies is critical especially where urban populations are exposed to unprecedented levels of air pollution. High costs, however, limit city governments’ ability to deploy reference grade air quality monitors at scale; for instance, only 33 reference grade monitors are available for the entire territory of Delhi, India, spanning 1500 sq km with 15 million residents. In this paper, we describe a high-precision spatio-temporal prediction model that can be used to derive fine-grained pollution maps. We utilize two years of data from a low-cost monitoring network of 28 custom-designed low-cost portable air quality sensors covering a dense region of Delhi. The model uses a combination of message-passing recurrent neural networks combined with conventional spatio-temporal geostatistics models to achieve high predictive accuracy in the face of high data variability and intermittent data availability from low-cost sensors (due to sensor faults, network, and power issues). Using data from reference grade monitors for validation, our spatio-temporal pollution model can make predictions within 1-hour time-windows at 9.4, 10.5, and 9.6% Mean Absolute Percentage Error (MAPE) over our low-cost monitors, reference grade monitors, and the combined monitoring network respectively. These accurate fine-grained pollution sensing maps provide a way forward to build citizen-driven low-cost monitoring systems that detect hazardous urban air quality at fine-grained granularities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number76
Journalnpj Climate and Atmospheric Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Atmospheric Science


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