Innovation That Matters

Crowdsourced pollution data via smartphones


iSPEX-EU saw thousands of air pollution measurements taken by European citizens using their smartphones over a six week research period.

Citizens in eleven cities in Europe were recently recruited to help crowdsource pollution measurements, as part of the large-scale research project iSPEX-EU. Participants used their smartphones, an app and a lens called a spectropolarimeter, to collect data about air quality across the continent, which will be used by iSPEX to make comprehensive maps.

The project ran for six weeks and saw thousands of measurements taken in Athens, Barcelona, Belgrade, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Manchester, Milan, Rome, and Toulouse. To contribute, citizens registered their interest, downloaded the free app and were sent an iSPEX lens. Then, on a clear day they placed the lens over their smartphone camera and photographed the sky in multiple directions. The app registered the location and direction of each picture and measured the light spectrum and the polarisation of the light.

From the data, iSPEX are able to calculate how much fine dust — known as aerosols — there is in the atmosphere in that place and create a map showing levels of air pollution across Europe. The crowdsourced data can be used to aid government research by filling in any blank spaces and ensuring that the official data is honest.

We’ve seen attempts at similar projects before, such as Smart Citizen, but iSPEX EU benefits from the flexibility and simplicity of its tools. Smartphones have been successfully harnessed as scientific apparatus, enabling researchers to crowdsource data about issues including cancer and tree disease.

What other measurements could be citizen-sourced?




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