Environmental monitoring technology is developing rapidly. Advances in analytical accuracy, reliability, number of determinands, cost and connectivity, are leading to the development of technologies that may someday overtake conventional periodic environmental monitoring techniques.
The ideal state is a network of autonomous, affordable connected monitoring devices – installed in the field or facility – continually sampling and analysing a breadth of parameters within the exactitude required by regulatory authorities.
The good news for environmental monitoring professionals is that this ideal state is somewhat in the distance. For the time being, periodic monitoring is the most reliable source of quantitative truth. There are still many technological hurdles to overcome before industry transitions to continuous monitoring as the primary form of monitoring:
Stability: Without human intervention and preventive maintenance, sensors may become fouled – resulting in inaccurate measurements and equipment failure.
Availability: Currently, only a limited number of determinands are available for analysis – which limits full potential. Ambient Air: PM2.5, PM10, Benzene, O2, O3; Stack Emissions: TOC, CH4, CHOH, NOx, CO, CO2, SOx, O2, HCl, HF, NH3, Hg, PM2.5, PM10; Water Quality: pH, Turbidity, TOC, DO, Conductivity.
Applicability: Meeting the strict standard methods required by regulatory authorities is a tall ask. At present, continuous monitoring technologies may not be able to meet all performance criteria.
Reporting: The volume of data created must be managed in a comprehensive and intuitive manner – with flexible environmental data applications: Hello Biome.
Costs: The capital cost of continuous monitoring installations and maintenance is currently higher than the price of periodic monitoring.
Certification: A limited number of vendors have undertaken MCERTS certification; whereas certification of monitoring professionals and laboratories (MCERTS and ISO 17025) is commonplace.
The transformation of continuous monitoring technologies from qualitative to quantitative is merely a matter of time, money and market forces. The demand for reliable, accurate and timely environmental monitoring data is growing exponentially, and the list of MCERTS certified equipment is following suit.
While the technology plays catch-up, imagining a world where the availability of reliable environmental data is omnipresent really excites us at Biome. Access to this data will enhance business models, processes and operations – protecting our natural and economic ecosystems.
Here's to the future: better, faster, cheaper, always on.