A Policy Initiative: Distributed Pathogen Sensor Integration in the Built and Natural Environments

The goal of this paper is to provide policy makers, urban planners, and other pandemic-related prevention and response interests with the justification to proactively integrate distributed microchip bioelectrical sensors into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)-supported built and natural environments. Sensors are outfitted with Internet of Things (IoT) networking via mobile Wi-Fi, Lo-Ra, or satellite communications for air and liquid pathogen detection in centralized and decentralized water supplies, wastewater treatment systems, and other distributed applications.

Urban populations are the most susceptible to pathogen spread in part due to interconnected infrastructure and population density. From a wastewater treatment standpoint, fecal transmission pathways via the aerosolization of liquid waste is now known to transmit COVID-19, with a virus survival timeline in water and sewage between numerous days and weeks. Aerosolization of human excrement can take place at any point of the wastewater service chain, such as during the flush of a toilet, in pipeline leaks, and wastewater treatment plant effluent discharge.

The global systemic risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and rapid global urbanization can have debilitating effects on life and activities within human populations. COVID-19, caused by a new strain of the coronavirus family, SARS-CoV-2, starting at the onset of 2020, became the latest infectious disease to rapidly evolve into a global pandemic. As of the week of Dec 15, 2020, there were over 70 million cumulative COVID-19 cases and 1.6 million deaths reported globally since the start of the pandemic. Of the 195 countries recognized by the United Nations (2020), only 11 have reported no COVID-19 cases.