Project Overview

Thanks to advances in technology, portable sensors are becoming smaller and cheaper by the day. However, these sensors are often very basic, lacking a display, GPS, map function, and Internet connectivity.

EcoMobileCitizen combines environmental and physiological sensors, a mobile phone application, and a mapping-enabled website into an easy to use system, allowing common citizens to measure their environments and, if they choose to, share their collected data. The contributed data can be made available on the map website for personal, scientific, and urban policy decision making purposes.

Challenges

  1. The concentration of air pollution in ambient air can vary according to different geographical scales and thus need to be a focus for sustainability science. In cities the air quality varies from within urban areas and inside micro-environments around point sources, in street canyons and close to roads. Therefore, inclusion of the local context and local communities in the sustainability science agenda is essential.
  2. There is a lack of understanding about human exposure on the individual level, weakening the scientific base knowledge about the mechanisms underlying the effects of air pollution on health.
  3. Static air pollution sensors are not designed for measuring human individual exposure, therefore data collected by static sensors are insufficient to draw conclusions about the relationship between air pollution and health.
  4. We believe many people are interested in helping the environment but there are not many easy ways to participate and contribute.
  5. There are portable environmental and physiological sensors on the market today, but sharing the collected data for further analysis is often not possible, not practical, and lacks personalization options.

Solutions

  1. Individuals and local communities have the capability to provide sufficient data for multi-scale research. Our system creates the opportunity for sharing such data with researchers and organisations exploring the relations between the dynamics of the earth’s “socioecological system”, human development, and sustainability.
  2. Our project is an opportunity for medical researchers to have access to data that are collected on the individual level, providing a new understanding of the mechanism underlying the health effects of air pollution.
  3. We use wearable environmental and physiological sensors to collect data at locations and routes where people actually frequented by people, in order to measure their individual exposures. Participants may choose to share their collected data, drastically increasing the amount of data available for research.
  4. We think usability is critical for attracting participants and potential contributors; therefore special attention has been placed on the user-interface design. In addition, our software is open source to attract software developers and sensor hardware manufacturers.
  5. To make it easy and practical to collect data from sensors, we have developed a mobile phone application, designed to be vendor agnostic to work with as many sensors as possible, and added functionality that many sensors lack. These include, display measurements and GPS coordinates, personalization and privacy options.

Community impact

The interaction with and learning from local/global communities is an increasingly important component of systems that target the sustainability of local/global environments. Collaboration with such communities provides opportunities for researchers to understand mechanisms underlying the effects of environments on human health and quality of life, provides opportunities for communities to learn from scientists and become more motivated in improving their surrounding environments, and provides opportunities for governments to develop sustainable livelihoods and conservation strategies, empowering communities’ involvement in natural resources management and protection.

To ensure the effectiveness of such co-management, our system provides interactive tools for collaborative visual analysis, which may help community members and experts analyze community-collected data, and which can become an opportunity for the strong interactive and participatory partnership between communities and governments.

We design our system in a way to minimize the barriers of participation:

  • No vendor tie-ins, all sensors can be supported by design;
  • Special focus on usability: simple, easy-to-use user interfaces;
  • Special focus on users: give full control to users of their own collected data;
  • No limitations on locations: the system can work in any country, centralized or distributed.

Climate impact

Our project aims for environmental sustainability, which is a necessity for all countries worldwide and strongly related to human quality of life, therefore we are hoping for a positive impact on climate.

The project increases public awareness and understanding of environmental issues and empowers citizens to become proactive towards environmental sustainability.

We hope the project will drastically increase the amount of data available for research (such as CO2, ozone, temperature, etc.); by making use of the collected data the approaches become possible in climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning.

The collected environmental data can empower citizens to effectively influence public policy and make informed decisions about the environment.

We hope our project will bring back the lost respect for the environment and improve the quality of life of citizens.

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