Bike couriers in Cambridge, UK have been given tricked-out cellphones that monitor the air pollution around them and ten report that information to a research team. What a clever way to gather this information.
The technique is made possible by small wireless pollution sensors and custom software that allows the phones to report levels of air pollutants wherever they happen to be around town.
“Mobiles are everywhere, and now have a lot of computing power,” says Eiman Kanjo, the computer scientist at Cambridge University, UK, leading technical development of the project. “They can provide an alternative to expensive custom hardware and report from places that otherwise aren’t monitored.”
Kanjo and colleagues gave local cycle couriers air-pollution sensors and GPS units that connect to their cellphones via Bluetooth. Custom software lets the phone constantly report the current air quality and location to servers back in the lab.
“They cycle around the city as usual and we receive the data over the cellphone network,” says Kanjo. “We can find out what pollutants people are exposed to and where.”