International sensing projects

There are many successful examples of global citizen sensing projects, where communities have taken digital tools into their own hands to help them better understand a local issue and take steps to remedy it. Find out more about how these projects have tackled a range of issues including:

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The Open Water project

The Open Water project

Where was it?

The United States of America

What was the issue?

Events that impact access to clean water such as chemical spills, polluted irrigation sources and hydraulic fracturing highlighted a need for better access to water quality information that was inexpensive and accessible.  There was not one single issue, but a response to the limited scope and accessibility of water quality data.

Who got involved?

Public Lab working with community groups, university researchers and ecologists.

How did they ‘sense’ the problem?

They developed open hardware – the low-cost water quality sensor, the “Riffle,” and open software for water-related applications. This involves working with data, encouraging community participation and supporting grassroots community work that addresses water quality issues.

Botellon no me deja dormir

Botellon no me deja dormir

Where was it?

Barcelona, Spain

What was the issue?

Residents living around a square, Plaça del Sol, suffered from high levels of noise due to the crowds that congregated there during the evenings.

Who got involved?

Fab Lab Barcelona (part of the Making Sense EU project), local residents, activists and members of the Barcelona City Council came together in @Kubik, a co-working space in Gracia.

How did they ‘sense’ the problem?

Residents used sensors to establish how high the noise levels were during evenings in the square compared to the daytime levels. Using the data collected, they worked together to see how the situation could be improved.

GROW Laboratory

GROW Laboratory

Where was it?

European-wide

What was the issue?

Climate change is affecting crops and growing practices around the world. By monitoring the moisture in soil growers can help predict floods, fires and droughts which can adversely affect crops on both a small and large scale.

Who got involved?

University of Dundee leads the project with a number of partners across Europe including the MET Office.

How did they ‘sense’ the problem?

Through free online courses, citizens learn how to use low-cost soil sensors and do simple, coordinated soil experiments to capture and make sense of data on their local environment. This helps validate good local growing practices – including new ways to improve their soil and food production methods -as well as contributing to international environmental monitoring.

Pigeon Air Patrol

Pigeon Air Patrol

Where was it?

London, UK

What was the issue?

Air pollution levels in London – particularly levels of ozone, volatile compounds and nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Who got involved?

Plume Labs in partnership with Imperial College London.

How did they ‘sense’ the problem?

Pigeons in London were fitted with tiny backpacks containing air pollution sensors. During the project (in 2016) people could either tweet @PigeonAir or use the Plume Air Report app to get a real time reading of how toxic the air was in areas in London.

Deptford Dust Boxes

Deptford Dust Boxes

Where was it?

South East London, UK

What was the issue?

Residents in Deptford were concerned about air quality, particularly in relation to road transport and construction in the area.

Who got involved?

The Citizen Sense research project (Goldsmiths University and the European Research Council) collaborated with local residents.

How did they ‘sense’ the problem?

They developed a monitoring kit that included ‘Dustbox’ sensors and a platform called Airsift to display the data collected on maps. The kits were distributed to people taking part in the research project and were available to loan for free from Deptford Lounge Library. They monitored air quality in the area from October 2016 to September 2017.

Luftdaten

Luftdaten

Where was it?

Stuttgart, Germany (plus ongoing international work)

What was the issue?

Stuttgart had the reputation as ‘bad air capital’ of Germany, with PM levels exceeding official safe limits.

Who got involved?

Social entrepreneur Jan Lutz began the Luftdaten project which is part of the Real Laboratory for Sustainable Mobility Culture of the University of Stuttgart.

How did they ‘sense’ the problem?

They created low-cost (35 euros) air pollution sensors to measure particulate matter that are simple to assemble. The hold regular workshops in Stuttgart to encourage more citizens to install sensors to constantly improve the data picture of the city. As the project is open source, manuals have been translated into multiple languages and people across the world have built kits to sense air quality in their own cities.

Sea Sensing

Sea Sensing

Where was it?

Key West, USA

What was the issue?

Residents in locations which are predicted to be greatly affected by sea level rise coastal erosion have limited interaction with scientific projection data. This is often the result of the data being complex, uncertain and global in its nature.

Who got involved?

Erica Jewell ran a design research project for her MA in Interaction Design at Goldsmiths, University of London. She worked with local high school students in Key West.

How did they ‘sense’ the problem?

Erica designed an easy-to-use manual so people can build their own DIY sea sensors to gather situated knowledge about climate change and form hands-on engagements with projection data. She hosted a series of workshops in Key West, Florida with local high school students in which they built and tested their own sea sensors. The students will keep and use their sensors in their own chosen locations and gather their own data.

What's missing?

Tell us about your citizen sensing project

 

We’re always keen to hear about more examples of citizen sensing from around the world.

Please get in touch and tell us about a project!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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