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Massey Uni students win big at global IoT challenge

A team of engineering students from Massey University have taken out a top prize at a global internet of things (IoT) innovation challenge with air quality sensors.

The team created CAIRNet (Climate Air Information Real-time Network), a low cost, IoT based air quality monitoring network.

At the Keysight IoT Innovation challenge in New York City, they were awarded US$25,000 in cash and US$25,000 worth of select Keysight test equipment for Massey University as the global winner of the Smart Land category.

The Auckland-based student team comprised of Engineering PhD students Baden Parr and Tyrel Glass and Bachelor of Engineering with Honours graduates Madhav Kruthiventy and Darryn Wells, all of whom completed their studies at Massey University’s Albany campus.

The team was one of six teams from around the world that were flown to New York by Keysight to participate in the global finals this week, after winning the Asia-Pacific/Greater China regional Smart Land IoT Innovation Challenge in June.

Parr and Glass were involved in ecentre, the business incubator hosted at Massey University. The pair have participated in several startup programmes run by ecentre for Massey students, including their recent IoT cattle tracking startup project. Their solution, ProTag, aims to provide a low-cost data driven insights into individualised livestock health.

The Keysight IoT Innovation Challenge is a global design competition challenging graduate and undergraduate engineering students to conceptualise low-power sensor networks to tackle issues brought on by today’s rapid urbanisation. The contest’s two tracks are: the Smart Land challenge and the Smart Water challenge.

More than 300 entrants from around the world, across three regional competitions, were judged on metrics such as innovation, manufacturability and impact.

The team was supervised by Dr Fakhrul Alam, Leader, Department of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, School of Food and Advanced Technology (SF&AT) at Massey University, Auckland. Their work grew out of a 2018 fourth year engineering project and has received University and industry support.

ecentre CEO Jackie Young says, “Beating out competition from all around the world really highlights how Massey University is producing world-class engineers - and the value of developing innovation and entrepreneurial capability - to create a winning combination.”

“Baden and Tyrel are active members of ecentre’s community and regularly engage with our incubator services. It’s been very rewarding working with them to develop their innovation and startup skills, to help them on their journey as they turn their engineering ideas into marketable products.”

Parr says, “Working with the ecentre provided us with valuable insights into how to manage project development by utilising the LEAN startup principles and gaining insights into the target market through research conducted with key Auckland stakeholders. Mentors from the ecentre are always on hand offer guidance and advice and the contacts they bring are invaluable.”

More on CAIRNet

At the heart of CAIRNet is a low-cost sensor node that utilises cost-effective sensors to measure carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, particulate matters, temperature and humidity.

Each sensor is capable of long-range and low power communication over a network of IoT and short-range, high data rate, communication over Wi-Fi. It is solar powered, weather resistant and designed to be simply to deploy at a large number of locations. The data collected from the sensor nodes is stored in a cloud-based server and is ultimately displayed on a web page for end-users.

Alam says that air quality monitoring stations are currently confined to only a small number of locations due to the high cost of the monitoring equipment. They provide a low fidelity picture of the air quality in the city; local variations and pockets with high densities of pollutants are overlooked.

“CAIRNet can help measure air quality, in real time, at a large number of urban locations in a cost-effective way. Real-time air pollution data can raise the awareness of general public that could lead to the uptake of sustainable living and be an effective tool for the government and the policy makers for minimising air pollution,” says Alam.

The work was noticed by air quality scientists from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and other governmental agencies and has received funding from the Massey University Research Fund and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment Product Accelerator Fund.

The team are currently working with the NIWA scientists to co-locate a few of the sensor nodes with NIWA and council air quality monitoring stations, to help calibrate the sensors.

Parr says the win is a great boost for CAIRNet and the funding and profile will be help accelerate the project.

"Once we’ve calibrated the sensors the next step is to employ a large number of the nodes across Auckland, and eventually other New Zealand cities, to collect data to show air quality in the city in real-time. We then plan to use big data analytics and machine learning to run an AI engine to forecast air pollutant information.

“Following the Auckland deployment, we are looking forward to collaborating with EWB (Engineers Without Borders) to tackle wood smoke in Cambodia along with Sunway University to monitor brown haze in Malaysia. Exposure from this event has also put us in touch with other similarly minded groups who are opening pathways for sensor deployments in Australia and the United States of America,” says Parr.