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Using smart technology to monitor CO2 in East Renfrewshire schools


We worked with East Renfrewshire Council to implement sensors and gather data in every teaching space in the area to help meet the Scottish Government guidelines for assessing air quality in teaching areas.


Meeting new government guidance

In August 2021, the Scottish Government set clear guidelines for assessing the air quality in all teaching areas. The goal was to create a safer learning environment for Scottish pupils and school staff in response to COVID-19. To meet the directive, East Renfrewshire Council worked with Capita. Having identified schools which required initial interventions to be made, we delivered the pilot and then scaled fast to implement sensors in every teaching space in the area, gathering the data in a digital dashboard.


Using digital transformation to support physical wellbeing To manually monitor the air quality in every teaching area in East Renfrewshire would require teaching and property staff to spend valuable resources gathering all the data for individual rooms, on an ongoing and regular basis. The installation of a remote monitoring system allows the staff to carry out their normal teaching and property duties while the data is collated automatically. The Council approached the project with its own digital ambitions – to be a leading local authority where technology helps create a better quality of life for all.


Turning a mandate into measured innovation East Renfrewshire Council’s approach was to think big, start small and scale fast. It was very capable of the first two points – but knew it would need a partner for the third. The Council collaborated with Capita to create a pilot case study using Capita Innovation funding to deliver the first stage of this project in very quick timescales. Starting with the necessary IoT gateways, we deployed these on the Scottish Wide Area Network (SWAN), achieving 99.9% coverage in just weeks.


Following expert advice, the Council chose nondispersive infrared (NDIR) sensors. While we were satisfied that these were the right tools for the job, they also presented a valuable opportunity. With these smart devices, we could start to enable the digital ambitions of East Renfrewshire Council.


With the decision made and benefits within reach, Capita moved ahead, scaling fast from the pilot project. With the initial data pointing very clearly to key insights, the business case for full deployment of the project was presented to the Council’s key stakeholders and approved. The sensors were then put into every high school, primary school and pre-5 classroom in East Renfrewshire by early November. They take real-time readings of not only CO2, but environmental factors like temperature and humidity.


The data is then collected in digital dashboards which can be tracked by individual schools and Council-wide, so necessary remediations can be spotted and acted on. With this process, East Renfrewshire and Capita have taken government guidance and turned it into an opportunity for measured innovation – helping the Council realise its digital potential within what’s reasonably possible. From concept to reality, working collaboratively with clear, realistic goals and timelines our objective were met.


Extending the duty of care

With multiple sensors in every school, East Renfrewshire Council is monitoring environmental factors like CO2, temperature and humidity. Within the first two days of monitoring, we saw 16.5k data messages traverse the IoT network in real time.


For the first time ever, this critical data is accessible and will allow the Council to make informed choices and allocate resources at the right time.


With the analysis of data and trends, the programme will progress in 2022 with a greater understanding of priority locations for remediation and the characteristics or key indicators of causal effects – including the impact of layout or location, weather and even light strength.


In just three months, the deployment of intelligent sensors across East Renfrewshire schools – and the wider area – is starting to enable a host of benefits to the Council and citizens. The Council is able to put its limited resources to better use. And data is providing real insight on trends and intelligence to inform better decision-making – even helping the Council deliver on its Climate Change agenda.