Mapping urban air quality using mobile sampling with low-cost sensors and machine learning in Seoul, South Korea

Academic Article


  • © 2019 Recent studies have demonstrated that mobile sampling can improve the spatial granularity of land use regression (LUR) models. Mobile sampling campaigns deploying low-cost (<$300) air quality sensors could potentially offer an inexpensive and practical approach to measure and model air pollution concentration levels. In this study, we developed LUR models for street-level fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentration levels in Seoul, South Korea. 169 h of data were collected from an approximately three week long campaign across five routes by ten volunteers sharing seven AirBeams, a low-cost ($250 per unit), smartphone-based particle counter, while geospatial data were extracted from OpenStreetMap, an open-source and crowd-generated geographical dataset. We applied and compared three statistical approaches in constructing the LUR models – linear regression (LR), random forest (RF), and stacked ensemble (SE) combining multiple machine learning algorithms – which resulted in cross-validation R2 values of 0.63, 0.73, and 0.80, respectively, and identification of several pollution ‘hotspots.’ The high R2 values suggest that study designs employing mobile sampling in conjunction with multiple low-cost air quality monitors could be applied to characterize urban street-level air quality with high spatial resolution, and that machine learning models could further improve model performance. Given this study design's cost-effectiveness and ease of implementation, similar approaches may be especially suitable for citizen science and community-based endeavors, or in regions bereft of air quality data and preexisting air monitoring networks, such as developing countries.
  • Author List

  • Lim CC; Kim H; Vilcassim MJR; Thurston GD; Gordon T; Chen LC; Lee K; Heimbinder M; Kim SY
  • Volume

  • 131