#1: Citizen Sensor

Citizen Sensor is an open-source DIY hardware and software initiative to bring pollution monitoring to the general public. Please take a few minutes to watch this video, to understand where the project is currently.

In this class, we will be sharing a few modules to collect our own data around NYC. Unfortunately, the software only works on Android phones – this is because Apple does not give developers access to the bluetooth data connection on their devices (the reason the only BT devices for iPhones are headsets).

The units we’ll first use will come with Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Ambient Noise Pollution (SPL) Sensors.  Something really important to keep in mind is that the system can support any imaginable analog sensor, and a large variety of digital sensors as well. This means we could use the units to measure light exposure, temperature, humidity, methane gas, liquefied petroleum gas, smoke, and more!  While you are out collecting data, think to yourself: What kinds of environmental factors do you think might be interesting to measure? Leave some ideas in the comments section of this page, and we can try to make it happen before the end of the semester!

Please check out the development site for Citizen Sensor at: http://citizensensor.cc

You can check out a module and a phone from Chris Bruce in the 10th fl DT lab.  He has 2 of each. In general he works from 9am – 5pm, and I believe we’ll be doing 24 hour check outs.  Here’s a vid showing you how to connect the module to the Nexus One Android app!

A few notes:

  • You’ll need to use your own SIM card. To remove a SIM from an iPhone 4: http://youtu.be/q3jyCWhgA0Y from iPhone 3G or lower: http://youtu.be/kir19QRGzv8. To Insert the SIM into the Nexus One: http://youtu.be/WScN1pThgoY -> Starts at about 0:30 in
  • The best way to check that your login info is correct and working is to upload a data point and then check on Rory’s map that a point has been posted by YOUR username: http://urt.rorys.webfactional.com/
  • The sound data (measured in dB) is not being calculated correctly. This is not a problem because we have the analog control voltage values coming in great, it’s just the math that is missing — we can do the math (will be a simple expression) after data is collected easily.
  • CO data (measured in ppm) is much closer to accurate. Try holding a cigarette near the sensor (the big round blue piece) for about 30 seconds. you’ll see the numbers jump super high.
  • If things start acting weird (constant disconnecting going on or something) it’s probably the battery. We should get some 9-volts and leave them with Chris.

Any questions at all, feel free to email Joe Saavedra at any time!

Here’s this week’s (week 2) assignments

  1. Look through Joe’s list of applied uses for this tool, and come up with your own application idea … or propose a hypothesis that one would use this device to test. In doing this, possibly come up with a new type of sensor reading that would be beneficial to add to Citizen Sensor tool. Write 200-300 words (half-page) describing this new application area (and possibly new sensor reading).
  2. Do some research through visualcomplexity.cominfosthetics.com, or infovis.info and find a display method that you think might be appropriate to this kind of data. Write 200-300 words (half-page) about how this is effective, or ineffective, or how it could be better, etc.
  3. Using data that has been collected and entered into the URT tool, do a quick sketch of a visualization or mapping. You can use the approach you focussed on in step 2, or improve on that, or make up something! It can be an experiment and doesn’t have to be perfect. The emphasis is on the analysis and your test — not making a pristine visualization or map.

{ 12 comments to read ... please submit one more! }

  1. Pollution data mapping doesn’t really speak to me directly, so it’s hard for me to come up with a specific pollution set that I’m especially interested in mapping. I love Joe’s sensor and the mapping tools, but the data just isn’t of a personal interest. I’m still eager to take tests of my neighborhood for the Citizen Sensor project. I’m interested in seeing how different neighborhoods in NYC relate to each other regarding that data. I am also a smoker and found that aspect of the CO testing intriguing. I would love to test my apartment (where I smoke!), in a studio! I think it might help people to quit smoking in their cars or apartments if they could see the long-term damage they were doing to their personal environments. I don’t know if mapping those results would yield any insight, probably not.

    I liked the class discussion where we talked about adding a breathalyzer to the mapping. I thought that was pretty interesting. It would be cool in my opinion to see where everyone is from, if they are a visiting tourist, and if that changes their blood alcohol content. Which neighborhoods are the drunkest? Are New Yorkers more sober than tourists in the city—my hypothesis. I’m going to mock up a map of the breathalyzer meets tourists concept based on the various map sites. I think it would be funny to have heads on the NYC map, and the heads would be famous drunks from each state, so Snooki could represent NJ, Hasselhof from CA, etc. The size of the heads corresponding to how drunk those tourists were. Where do we post our pecha kuchas and maps and google spatial life map, here?

  2. My application will need to be modified to be something that can be tested in the NYC area, but it basically deals with trying to find the long-term effects of natural disasters (or maybe just carbon monoxide, methane, and PM 2.5) on the health of children. To modify this for use in this area, I was thinking that I could look at whether or not the dust from building demolitions and construction have a long-term effect on people living in nearby neighborhoods.

    Effect of Wildfires on the Respiratory Health of Children

  3. 1. I was thinking about the uses that the URT can be put too and I realized that since we are mainly just creating data, the data can be put to a number of uses. Two of the uses I thought it could be put to are:
    - To set noise pollution levels for events. After using URT policy makers can set levels to the amount of noise that can be made at different events. So the noise level at a rooftop party can be something and the noise at a 4th of July parade can be something. And through this levels can be kept under a check and excess noise can be punishable.
    -Also, this tool could be used to figure out the best jogging spots in a day. As we all know pollution levels vary in places. While a park may have a very high CO reading during rush hour, it may be very low in the middle of the night. So, using this tool one can create a map for joggers telling them what spot is the “least polluted” at what time.

    2. As this is a project based off of mapping I believe that having a map is very necessary to visually understand what is going on. But what can also be helpful is to have a color coding system, so that at any point, one can know what is being read. Also another addition to just a map can be the option of having a graph where the user can choose what to plot, so it can aide there understanding of the information. Also the use of thumbnails maybe beneficial. Like a speaker for noise pollution, a bottle for maybe the breath analyser etc. The last idea I have is a check list beside the map (like google earth) where the user can check off what they want to see on the map, and only those things show up.

  4. 1.) An idea for the application of the Citizen Sensor Tool was to use it for people with allergies. In India, the air is extremely polluted, full of industrial emissions and vehicles. People who visit India from other countries have a hard time breathing and living in that environment and many get allergies too. They have allergic reactions to the air; it causes them illnesses and flu. So for foreigners entering India, the sensor data would be helpful to realize the areas that they might like to stay away from if they have got an allergy after being in that place. So, this would be specific to people visiting India from other countries and may have allergies such as coughing, sneezing, runny noses, watery eyes, etc. Hundreds of millions of old diesel engines in India continuously burn away diesel which has between 150 to 190 times the amount of sulphur compared to European diesel engines.

    2.) The Display method that I think might be appropriate for this kind of data would be the ‘weeplaces’ on visualcomplexity.com. Because the different places that people might go in India can be the blue dots and the yellow lines can connect and create each persons path, from one place to another. This would be effective and easy to display the information collected from this data. There is a timeline at the bottom, which could also be helpful in this data collection. It could map the place visited over time and maybe the pollution would increase or decrease over years which could help other foreigners who may be worried about catching allergies. It would also require a reading key, possibly with the vehicles around that area that are not environmentally friendly or less environmentally friendly and other emissions in the air that may cause allergies.

  5. Group: Jamie Kennedy and Ryan Oh

    Design Brief

    Our research question compares the air and noise pollution for people who take the subway. The subway trains create loud, screeching noises as they go back and forth on the tracks which can create noise pollution. It does not matter whether you are on or off the subway train; the screeching noise is very audible. The subway is underground and does not have a great deal of ventilation which can create air pollution.
    One user scenario is a person waiting outside the train. A person waiting outside the train will experience noise pollution as the train arrives and departs the station. Another user scenario is a person waiting inside the train. A person waiting inside the train will occasionally experience noise pollution as they ride the train. The noise pollution can be increased by people going in between cars while the train is in motion. Both user scenarios are exposed to air pollution.
    Our inquiry hopes to reveal an uncomfortable level of noise pollution and air pollution which people breathe without knowing it. By measuring this information, we can inform people about the air and noise that they run into everyday. We can find out whether the public transportation in New York City is safe or not for people, especially kids, infants, elderly people, or people with disabilities that affect their ears or breathing.
    People in New York City might care more about the subway’s air and noise pollution because they may already know about it but they do not think about how it can affect them negatively. The air and noise pollution may be more important to a person with a disability because it may harm them more than it may harm a person without disabilities.
    Our argument may illuminate further if we know the full capabilities of the sensor. Will the application work at the subway station? Can the sensor store the information on the device for extraction by USB later? If we knew the answers to these questions, it would aid our research. We should find out how often people take the subway. In addition, we should compare the subway data with the normal air and noise pollution outside of the subway station.
    Our research idea compares the air and noise pollution for people waiting inside and outside of a train at a subway station. We want to measure the safety level of the New York City subway for everyday people. By gathering data, we can inform the people in New York City of their environmental conditions.

  6. Group: Nathan, Jessica, and PamelaJane

    Topic: The impact of indoor and outdoor smoking

    Design Brief

  7. From Leif Percifield and Neha Shah:

    Where would you go to get a breath of fresh air?

Looking for a place to jog, take a walk or take your children out to play Frisbee? Wouldn’t you want to locate the freshest breath of air available after a long day’s work? With “Citizen Sensor” it is as easy as logging on to your e-mail account.
    “Citizen Sensor” is a device that connects to your mobile phone, records pollution levels and their location. This device is accessible through your phone and also, computer, providing you with complete information on the quality of air you breath in—in the form of an easy to understand but comprehensive map structure.

    Design Questions –
What areas of New York provide people with a higher quality of life based on pollution levels and their proximity to green-spaces?

    What does your inquiry hope to reveal?  
This application will allow people to discover, map and share healthier areas of the city. This information will influence decisions ranging from locations of outdoor activities to prime locations to raise children thus contributing to quality of life.

Who might care more or less about it? / Who is your target audience 
    Health conscious people with mobile devices. Those, conscious about the day-to-day environmental impact on their health, would be interested in this device. But people who are less aware of health risk factors will less likely be impacted by this application.
    Audience touch points based on user personas –
Web interface: Targeted towards a broader age group 18-50 years
Mobile Application: Targeted towards the age group of 20-40 years

What other data might further illuminate your argument? 
Incidents of illness and the type of illness for particular locations would be valuable information to provide as part of this application.
User input that maps CO levels, noise levels from the sensor with a qualitative note about the type (good v bad) of noise would further enhance the accuracy of the map.

How will user interact with the data?
User will collect data in the form of data-points, notes and photos at various locations. The application will also, enable the user to evaluate and rate the information they are uploading. This is to assess the quality of noise—to determine whether it is annoying or pleasant.

Interface elements –
Map enabled with routing tools
Possibility of rating system for a particular location
Ability to view and compare the already uploaded data
    An agile structure that is sensitive to the uploaded data

  8. Brief : Simoni Bhansali & Janvi Mody

    URTing 2010
    The URT is a multi functional tool. It has a number of varied uses. One that we thought would be most applicable is to use it for a health purpose. With the increasing amount of pollution in the air, people constantly have to alter their lives to avoid certain illnesses. The easiest and most efficient way to keep healthy is probably just to go for a walk at some point in the day.
    URT can be used to help these health conscious walkers avoid polluted areas. By measuring the amount of pollutants at different parks and walking hot spots we can map the healthiest places to walk at any given time of day. Research has shown that the car exhaust has harmful substances like CO and Sulphur that is one of the main causes of respiratory problems. This tool can draw in the approximate amounts of these harmful gases at the necessary locations. This information can be used to map out the best spots for ones daily exercises at different times in the day.
    Thus helping the community live a healthier, longer and stronger life. People who have specifics illnesses can also be more informed of their surroundings, enabling them to take the healthiest “path to work”.
    User Personas:
    - Someone with medical issues (allergies etc.) that would prefer a healthier atmosphere.
    - Someone who regularly exercises outdoors.
    - Someone who walks to work/class.
    To discover the places that have the highest pollution during the different times of day. After which we can track the source of the pollution and eventually find a way to curb it.
    Related research:

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