Rethinking Infrastructure: Making Air Quality Perceivable to the Citizens

Typically, when people think of infrastructure, they think of utilities such as water, heating and electricity - all of which support our way of life. However, other factors have a great influence on our wellbeing and everyday life as well; things that we can actively monitor and change, such as working out, eating healthy and so forth. Do you know what the air quality was when you biked to work today? Neither did we... For something so omnipresent and important as the air we breathe everyday, we know surprisingly little about it during our day-to-day life. Outdoor air pollution has a direct effect on the human body - WHO estimated that 3.000.000 premature deaths worldwide can be ascribed to air pollution in the year 2012 - both in developed and developing countries.
For some time, we have envisioned a continuous stream of information from sensors around the city, placed in a high resolution network - allowing people to see the street-to-street differences in air quality, even including other factors, such as noise and ambient light levels. This is the first step for our vision for a smarter and healthier city.

Moving Towards a Smarter City

NRGi - Solar panels outside

... And we're very happy to announce that the energy company NRGi shares our vision, which they also have shown by supporting our efforts in developing low-cost, precise sensor probes that are to be placed around Aarhus city - enabling a steady flow of data that are open for all citizens, scientists and urban planners alike. They have funded the initial development of our project alongside other sustainable projects, which have been covered in the following media:

NRGi - Projekter der modtager støtte

TV2 Østjylland - Østjyske projekter får del i grønne millioner

METROXPRESS - Millioner fra værdipulje uddelt: Norsgade får deres elcykler

Energy - NRGi giver 800.000 til energikarrusel

Developing the Sensor Network

Since the 15th of January this year, we have been developing the initial prototypes of our so-called sensor probe, which will be explained in detail in a later blog post. Our first production run will be around 50 probes to be placed around Aarhus, measuring air quality parameters alongside noise, ambient light and rain - both day and night. Data is saved on our backend for use through an open API, allowing citizens to build their own tools and programs on top or through our visualization platform, which is being developed concurrently.

The initial probes are currently being tested both indoor and outdoors in the research and technology area of Katrinebjerg, Aarhus. We are testing solar panels, adaptive strategies for power management and particle pollution sensors. Alongside this, we are testing different communication channels, including 3G/GSM and LPWAN (LoRaWAN preferably) and combinations of these, to ensure consistent performance and low power consumption.

We will use the blog, alongside other social media channels, throughout the project to document our development efforts, conceptual sketches and other design challenges. You can follow us on instagram and facebook.