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Urban Pollution Sensors

BoingBoing's David Pescovitz has a new article in mobile Internet journal The Feature, "Smog-Sniffing Sensors," reporting on the Urban Pollution Monitoring Project in the UK, which combines bike-mounted pollution sensors and bluetooth messaging to alert passers-by when spot air pollution reaches threatening levels.

"Mobile sensors that are geographically tracked could help fill in the gaps to give a broad and dense picture of how pollution affects urban spaces and the people within them," says Urban Pollution investigator Anthony Steed, a computer science researcher at the University College London. "If you have several hundred or thousand sensors, you could give them to commuters and they'd make a map of the city's pollution."

The researchers have already conducted a field study using prototype devices built from a Hewlett-Packard Jornada PDA, GPS unit, and an off-the-shelf chemical sensor. Mounted on bicycles, the sensors detected phenomena like spikes in carbon monoxide around bus shelters.


[Researcher Ben] Hooker wrote the bluejacking software that enables the sensors to "self-advertise" their existence to passers-by, distribute "news-you-can-use," and promote the E-Science effort. He's also designing signs with a working sensor mounted on them to help explain how the readings are taken.

The intersection of urban life and environmental information is a topic we've been following for awhile, along with data-heavy bicycles and bluejacking. The Urban Pollution Monitoring Project is the perfect distillation of a number of WorldChanging interests, and it's exciting to see it come into being. I wouldn't be surprised to see parallel efforts spring up across Europe and Asia (they'd be less likely in the US, where Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones aren't quite as popular).


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