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It is natural to find legionella bacteria in freshwater lakes and ponds. Some inevitably gets into domestic supplies and in very small quantities it is harmless. It is when it manages to breed and multiply inside our plumbing systems that it becomes dangerous. The lungs are particularly susceptible. Most people think of a pneumonia-like illness when you say legionella, but it can also cause a variety of problems including “Pontiac fever”, “Lochgoilhead” fever, septic shock and organ failure. Legionella is a killer. 

Buildings locked-up or powered-down during the Covid-19 lockdown are now at increased risk because legionella prefers stagnant non-moving water and lukewarm temperatures.

Statutory responsibilities

A legionella infection is more likely in a large building such as an office block, public space, large factory or retail premises, but that does not mean there is zero risk in smaller buildings. In fact, even small landlords are bound by law to protect their tenants.

Big or small - the landlords, employers and managers of public buildings are responsible under a range of legislation. The main three are the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. the Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and the Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 (COSHH). Legionella precautions are also required or implied by numerous codes of practice, including HSE Approved Code of Practice ACOP L8 and HSE HSG274, DoE Health Technical Memoranda HTM 04-01 and HTM 01-05 (healthcare and dentistry), and in BS 7592 and BS 8580.

The greatest risks are usually associated with HVAC cooling towers, evaporative condensers, adiabatic coolers and all the associated pumps, tanks and pipework. However, premises of all sizes must comply with the same standards - including domestic landlords and letting agents. In small flats, cheap combi boilers that fail to deliver water at a stable hot temperature are a legionella hazard. High risks also come from stagnant water in shower outlets and clumsily capped pipework spurs.

The regulations apply to showers, vehicle washes, wet floor scrubbers, indoor water features, air washers, humidifiers, water softeners, chillers, spa pools, swimming pools, industrial quenchers, and to all hot and cold water supplies.

If a building occupant or visitor falls sick due to a legionella infection the consequences can be severe; evacuation, rehousing, lost income, new equipment, laboratory testing and compensation. Prevention really is better than the cure!

What you need to do

Begin by checking your basic system and identifying any problem points. It helps to have a schematic for a large building. In a small one, eliminate unused pipework and ensure the boiler/shower delivers a constant flow of hot water (without thermostats tripping on/off). The single most important factor in legionella prevention is to keep your cold water below 20 degrees centigrade, and your hot water close to 60 degrees centigrade or better. 

You cannot guarantee compliance with those temperature requirements if you can’t monitor the temperatures throughout the system. To show compliance, you should document all your temperature readings and all your work on the system.

Making light work of good health!

Regular readings and documentation could be a major headache, however there is a smart solution. Fitting wireless temperature sensors on pipes and at other key locations in the system can enable you to collect temperatures almost constantly and log them automatically. Today there are a range of inexpensive sensors - many so unobtrusive you will hardly know they are there. Most can be fitted externally with negligible inconvenience. Some incorporate accelerometers that also monitor the flow rates.

Smart sensors communicate using the IoT - the internet of things. You can then monitor what is happening via a Cloud dashboard from any computer or mobile phone at any time. If an issue is detected, the system will send you an alert by SMS or email so you don't have to sit there staring at it! Installing smart valves or smart thermostats into your plumbing system adds the ability to remote control the flow rates and temperature settings. In the long run, the opportunity to make water and fuel savings could pay for the system.

The L8 Approved Code of Practice suggests the entire water system should be reviewed every 1-2 years, but sooner when there are relevant changes. Those changes include plumbing work (because dirt can enter the pipework), periods of vacancy (because of stagnation), or temperature fluctuations (tripping thermostats). The presence of anyone at increased risk (with kidney disease, immune system impairment, the elderly and so forth) also constitutes a change meriting more frequent monitoring. If you install a smart connected system, inspections and reviews require very little work at all.

The Environment Protection Agency recently declared that “Air pollution has a devastating impact on the UK population, shortening lives, causing early deaths and ill health. It is a bigger global killer than smoking. It costs the UK economy over £20 billion a year.” (  

Common pollutants include ozone, sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, dioxins, polycyclic aromatics, carbon monoxide, ozone, particulates, ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulphide, chlorine, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen cyanide, phosphine and ethylene oxide. The consequences range from debilitating fatigue, headaches, hay-fever, skin disorders and eye irritation up to fatal illnesses including lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, COPD, bronchiolitis and cardio-vascular diseases. Polluted air has also been linked to mental illness, behaviour disorders, mental retardation and miscarriage.

The failure of regulation

The EU accused the UK of failing to comply with EU air quality regulations in 2017 ( and the UK government declared air pollution a national health emergency the following year ( A post-Brexit Environment Act is in the pipeline but it is unclear whether it will have any more effect than previous failed legislation. 

Outdoors, traffic fumes overtook factory chimneys as the leading problem long ago, despite which many proposals for the new Environment Act still focus on “factory emissions” as did the last Clean Air Act in 1993. The proposals also largely ignore indoor sources of air pollution. 

According to a study by the US EPA, indoor air quality is often 5 times worse than the air outside ( The main offenders are synthetic materials such as composite wood furnishings (which leech formaldehyde), synthetic carpeting, cosmetics, pesticides, office printers, photocopiers, asbestos-laden roof tiles, faulty aircon systems, domestic cleaning products, and (ironically) “air fresheners”. 

Whether the new legislation addresses these problems or not, it is clear that employers, industrial facilities, office managers, local government and the public at large should be looking for solutions. We all breathe the same air and it is a significant hidden burden on our communities and productivity.

How the IoT can help us control our exposure

Most cities and towns have a few air monitoring stations, but their coverage is poor. They are also fixed in location (often the wrong ones) and the public have little access to their readings. As such they leave us a lot of guesswork. 

Most people assume that pollutants rarefy as you get further from the source. That is not always the case - many roll into low-lying areas or form invisible clouds overhead that descend to ground level when the air temperature changes (for example at dusk). Air quality in specific areas can be substantially worse than thinly sprinkled monitors reveal. In short, to understand our air pollution problems and correct them, we need more monitors. That is equally true inside our homes and places of work, and outside in our city streets and countryside. 

Before the IoT, better monitoring was impractical, but a wide range of air-quality sensors are now available. The IoT makes it easy to collect and monitor their data from almost anywhere. Detectors in fixed locations help us understand how conditions change over time, but we can also use mobile detectors to greatly extend our geographical coverage. If every council vehicle carried a monitor, blackspots would be discovered quickly and dealt with. 

High-end devices are capable of establishing the parts-per-billion of a wide range of pollutants. Others focus on particular known hazards, such as nitrogen oxides or aromatics. At the cheaper end of the range, suitable for many domestic and industrial uses, sensors can provide a simple “red-amber-green” warning system about air particulates. They are increasingly popular with urban cyclists, and alert you to don a face mask.


The most common method for connecting an air quality sensor is a simple 3G or 4G SIM card. However, there are many systems for collecting transmissions. In some parts of the British Isles, notably Scotland so far, LoRa wireless networks are available. No matter how much sophistication you require in your sensors, the vast majority of systems report to a Cloud service where the data is accessible through a simple website interface. 

Understanding the data you collect is made easy by proven off-the-peg tools such as the Tableau analytics platform. Visualisation tools make it easy to understand the results of your monitoring devices at a glance. If necessary, you can then cross-reference your readings with factors such as weather information. 

The Breathlife2030 organisation has declared September 7th 2020 as the first “International Day of Clean Air for Blues Skies”. There is no better time to be looking at IoT air quality tools than today.

Although there were plenty of warnings, Covid-19 still came as a shock - the kind that changes history. Economic policies will change, culture will change and businesses have to change too. The first challenge for everyone is to quash the current epidemic, but the second is to embrace permanent change.

Track and Trace

The first step in controlling an infectious disease is detection, but the government’s phone tracking proposals only scratch the surface of what is possible and what is needed.

Mass tracking is only needed when earlier opportunities to detect and contain outbreaks have failed. Thermal cameras deployed at ports, airports and railway stations could detect signs of fever, corroborate information with other cameras using the IoT, and provide a much faster alert than the one that eventually came from China about Covid-19.

Thermal cameras, and other health checking devices, can also be deployed in particular buildings and business premises. Employers can provide them to monitor the health of their staff and visitors. Most will welcome the opportunity, and appreciate the protection the company is providing. Eventually we think such equipment will be commonplace, and even in normal times it will help to reduce workforce sick leave.

Indiscriminate phone tracking is a panic reaction. Mobile phones can’t tell you if their owner is harbouring a virus, or whether the virus passed to any of the hundreds of people they may have encountered during its incubation period. The best IoT solution is prevention - and that’s far better than the cure.


The public knows our healthcare workers are doing a great job in a high-risk environment. Despite shortages, capacity wasn’t overrun and emergency hospitals have remained empty. However, behind the headlines there is a darker picture - the healthcare sector was the main vector by which the virus spread. The toll on nursing home residents and staff is out of all proportion to the toll in society at large. Without a range of new protections, hospitals and care homes could become the problem instead of the solution.

In the US, the FCC quickly made changes to its Rural Health Care program to enable Medicare to provide remote consultations. In the UK, doctors have traditionally resisted innovations such as remote consultations and expert diagnostic systems for fear it will erode their status and budgets. In times of epidemic, the dangers of contagion and cross-contagion between staff and patients outweigh those concerns. The NHS, and other healthcare providers, should quickly scale up their ability to diagnose and monitor patients remotely.

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) using IoT connected sensors and instruments can improve greatly on a monthly doctor’s appointment. Health conditions can be monitored continually, and medication adjusted immediately changes are detected. Smart medical sensors are already becoming more common, but in times of epidemic, they are more important than ever, freeing up beds and staff, reducing costs, and accelerating treatment delivery. In the event of a problem, they can automatically summon a doctor or ambulance.

Remote working

The majority of the world’s businesses have made adjustments to allow home-working during the lockdown. Having discovered the enormous savings (rent, electricity, travel) many will shift permanently toward it. Cloud software and Zoom conferencing are enough for some, but there are IoT solutions for all kinds of remote and mobile equipment too.

Essentially, any equipment used in the course of an activity can be engineered to provide real-time information back to the cloud, where it can be analysed, monitored, adjusted or automated - either by senior personnel or by artificial intelligence. This means many operations, or entire factories, can be automated and safely monitored from afar.

Air quality

A great weakness of modern buildings is their air conditioning systems. Green legislation and energy prices encourage us to rely on HVAC systems that circulate and recirculate air instead of expelling it. While it makes economic sense, it isn’t very reassuring in an epidemic. While most have filters, few are good enough to remove or destroy viruses.

In the war against Covid-19, not to mention influenza and “sick building syndrome”, a huge contribution can be made by smarter HVAC installations, especially in supermarkets and office blocks. Rather than making shoppers queue for an hour, the air quality inside a building might be a better guide as to how many people to admit or turn away.

A fully IoT connected HVAC system can drastically improve the safety of the air inside our buildings. Sensors can detect CO2 levels, viral loads, spores and other micro-organisms, adjusting air-flow and other conditions accordingly. At the same time, they can ensure your system delivers the best possible value-for-money, switching off unnecessary functions when they aren’t actually needed.

In these and a host of other ways, the IoT can help your business back to work, while also protecting your workers and margins from a range of other threats - both new and old.

Covid-19 has presented businesses with challenges they have never had to face before. With restrictions dragging on and future lockdowns probable, everyone should be earnestly seeking ways to operate in lockdown conditions, reassure customers they can deliver safe products, and provide safe environments for their workers. Many will soon discover their markets have changed too. Forever. There has never been a better time to discover how revolutionary technologies can help. 

In essence, the Internet-of-Things can connect virtually anything - from air filters to aeroplanes, from cows to combine harvesters, from printers to petrol tankers - so they can be monitored or operated from anywhere. Improved sensors, new data resources, upgraded software and tumbling costs constantly extend the applications to which it can be put. 

Return to work solutions 

The Internet-of-Things is a technology so vast in potential that few businesses appreciate the myriad things it can do. Getting your workers back to work and keeping your customers safe is just scratching the surface, but a very good place to start. You can quickly equip your offices, workshops, warehouses and retail spaces with a range of Covid-19 monitoring and risk minimisation tools using IoT enabled devices. 

Thermal cameras 

Like those already being deployed in airports, thermal cameras can look for signs of illness in your staff or visitors. They are particularly suitable for deployment at controlled entrances, but employees are also grateful for the opportunity to self-test and monitor their own health indicators on a daily basis. Temporary mobile cameras can also be set up at store entrances, allowing staff to warn arrivals if they show signs of a fever.

 Smart cameras 

Your existing CCTV systems, indoor or out, can be linked to smart image processing software and adapted to identify any feature of interest - such as social distancing. They can also be used to track anyone who has been put at risk. Medical facilities can use a CCTV system to monitor the safety of visitors and patients or ensure that employees abide by safe hygiene practices, including the proper use of PPE. For example, our cameras can quickly learn to recognise not only if proper face masks and PPE are being worn, but even if they are being worn correctly. 

Automating human monitoring eliminates many privacy concerns. As no images actually need to be stored, there are no GDPR issues for anyone to worry about. 

Proximity detectors 

A simple social distancing solution can be implemented by issuing every employee or visitor with a wearable device. When two devices come too close, they issue an unobtrusive but audible vibration. IoT connection allows you to go further, identifying workflow bottlenecks and geographical locations that pose social distancing hazards. Even in the absence of infectious hazards, identifying bottlenecks and congestion in your premises is useful information. 

Air quality 

With a few upgrades, most aircon systems can become an excellent defence against the airborne transmission of bacteria, spores and viruses. This enables you to provide strong reassurance to your staff, to customers and to statutory health and safety authorities. A wide variety of air monitoring and filtration units can be installed, guaranteeing you protection against a whole range of old and new health hazards. With IoT feedback, you can quickly identify any high-risk areas and focus solutions on them if necessary. Smart systems can also make that call for you, scaling up protection when it is needed, and reducing your running costs when it isn't. 

Net4 air quality monitoring and filtration solutions are capable of removing almost all bacteria, viruses and particulates (that often carry them) from your indoor environment. The system can also alert you as to the air quality conditions inside the building in real-time, and provide you with data to evaluate the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your entire HVAC system. 

Effective interventions, rapid results 

Our rapid back to work solutions are often very simple, but can also be highly sophisticated and effective. In either case, you may need some help to spot your many IoT opportunities. Those opportunities are often huge in scope and can involve multiple contractors delivering a wide range of specialist skills and innovative products. That’s where Net4 comes in. We use our proven partner network to ensure that every one of our customers gets the bespoke solution they need, and we make sure it is up and running as quickly as possible. 

Our back to work solutions don’t require you to down tools while they’re implemented, and our specialised experience will help you future-proof your business. Getting back to work is just the start.