Ramblings of a Tampa engineer
Photo by Timothy Eberly / Unsplash

One morning in Florida it was a bit cool when I opened up the garage to head to work - and it smelled wonderful. There was something about the fresh air of outside and the slight coolness it had that just caught my nose.

So instead I checked my mail for a bit more time outside and took in that before jumping into my car.

So the next day it was a morning run type of day and again the air just smelled great compared to what I remember. That was until I ran by some apartments near my place that had the distinct smell of weed - which kinda threw me off guard as it was 6:15am and I didn't expect that smell so early.

I get onto the trail after running out of my neighborhood and someone is smoking a cigarette while walking their dog. This time knowing I had this blog idea in my head - it bothered me. I'm pushing a 7 minute mile pace at this point and a cloud of cigarette smoke on the trail doesn't vibe well.

On the flip side - smoking it right outside an apartment door just blows into all apartments from my experience so maybe this person was doing a respectful thing. Or perhaps just being a non-smoker that any cigarette smoke just tilts me.

The weekend arrived and this time I drove to a different park for a work out and what do I smell this time? These 4 wheeler loud park vehicles that are driving around the same loop I'm running. The watch had me doing 46 minutes, so I was looking at 5 laps around the park. I think 2 or 3 times per loop I got a huge whiff of just pure exhaust from these various vehicles doing maintenance tasks.

That is way better than running on the sidewalk next to the road in terms of air quality, but all of a sudden I'm temporarily obsessed with the idea of clean air.

So now I'm entering the nerd phase of logging some data. I started researching "open source air monitoring", because I'm not going to buy another enterprise piece of monitoring technology that locks out features and changes terms (cough Canary).

This was some tough research in a way because all my results fell into the following buckets:

  • Extremely technical and DIY and out of my league.
  • Extremely old and outdated and lacks any of the connectivity features I want.
  • Extremely expensive or commercial.
  • Unavailable to be used safely outside.
Random weather station I was looking at.

At some point I was seriously considering picking up a personal weather station as that seemed to check all the boxes, except it was missing detailed air quality which was the entire reason I was doing this research unless I bought a plethora of attachments. However, this does seem pretty interesting to purchase as a few hundred bucks and I can have my personal weather feed. I just want to be sure I can push this data into my slowly growing personal dashboard of home data.

However, I kept focused and pushed that weather idea to my backlog and stumbled upon AirGradient which had a snippet of information that aligned with what I was trying to do.

With our expertise in air quality monitoring, we want to provide an open platform for building air quality monitors and enable citizens and organizations around the world to measure the air quality, share the data and have a positive impact on the environment and health.

I started and looking at their products and it was quite interesting. Such a range of basic to advance products with the ability to make them yourself or buy a pre-built iteration.


This looked like a combination of sensors to produce some great air quality stats, but looked to be isolated to some indoor devices. However, it looked like an outdoor model was on the horizon.


So this is my new journey. I've ordered an indoor and pre-ordered an outdoor model. My goal to ingest this data into a local database and visualize it. I want to start making correlations on days I feel the indoor/outdoor air smells great and what the real facts report.

I have the ability with this model to re-flash the Arduino with my own URLs for data collection and configuration. This is because near everything regarding this project are published on GitHub. The only thing I'm nervous about is there appears to be some issue with consistent reboots, however the community is on the case due to the open platform. They've identified a regression in the Arduino core version on the esp8266 and recommend a downgrade to v3.0.2.

So now I'm not too worried. It looks like a great group of nerds can collectively solve problems and work on the open platform together.

However, I don't have the hardware yet and will wait for my final judgement after a few weeks of running this for real. I might even purchase some personal weather station to add to this data collection.

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