Crowd Sourcing Pollution Measurements via Smartphone

via KIT

KIT Computer Scientists Work on a Measurement System for Mobile End Devices to Compile a Pollution Map in Collaboration with Users using Participatory Sensing

Big cities in the smog: Photos from Beijing and, more recently, Paris clearly illustrate the extent of fine dust pollution. But what about our direct environment? What is the pollution concentration near our favorite jogging route? Scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are developing a sensor that can be connected easily to smartphones. In the future, users are to take part in drawing up a pollution map via participatory sensing. The precision of the map will be the higher, the more people will take part.

The principle of fine dust measurements using a smartphone corresponds to that of simple optical sensors. “Instead of the conventional infrared LED in the sensor, the flashlight of the smartphone emits light into the measurement area. This light is scattered by the possibly existing dust or smoke. The camera serves as a receptor and takes a picture representing the measurement result. The brightness of the pixels can then be converted into the dust concentration,” computer scientist Matthias Budde explains. He has developed the system as a member of the research group TECO of KIT’s Chair for Pervasive Computing.

The computer scientists have carried out comparative measurements to prove that the principle works. The smartphone sensors are not yet as precise as specialized instruments. However, their costs are much lower.

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