Wireless sensor networks and publishing of sensor data on the Internet bear the potential to substantially increase public awareness and involvement in environmental sustainability. These technologies enable capturing sensor data by involving public authorities and the general public, and furthermore making real-time information on environmental conditions available to a wide public. Air pollution monitoring in urban areas is a prime example of such an application as common air pollutants have direct effect on the human health. However, bringing the vision of public involvement in environmental monitoring to a reality poses substantial technical challenges for the communication and information systems infrastructure, to scale up from isolated well controlled systems to an open and scalable infrastructure where many nano-scale sensors generate terabytes of data.
Modeled ultrafine particle concentrations for Zurich based on the OpenSense measurements of one year (from left to right, top to bottom: spring, summer, fall, winter).
Challenges that are not well addressed today:
Dealing with the heterogeneity and widely varying characteristics of the sensor equipment, measurements and data analysis.
Supporting and exploiting mobility of sensors.
Involving the community in a trusted, fair and transparent manner into the monitoring activity.
Air pollution monitoring is exceptionally suited to study these challenges as they are particularly pronounced in this scenario. A wide variety of sensors (meteorological data, air pollutants such as O3, NO2, NO, SO2, VOC, and fine particles) are used and measurements have to account for atmospheric transport phenomena. Sensors are frequently mobile (public and private vehicles, personal devices, airborne vehicles) and air pollution is today mostly a matter of public interest.
Datasheets of the sensors used in the OpenSense deployment:
O3 sensor from SGX Sensortech (UPDATE: discontinued, old datasheet)
OpenSense addresses key research challenges in the domain of information and communication systems related to community-based sensing using wireless sensor network technology in the context of air pollution monitoring.
OpenSense closely collaborates with X-Sense, a Nano-Tera project managed by the Permasense consortium. The basic hardware platform was designed, developed, and used to monitor various environmental phenomena in the Swiss Alps within the Permasense project.
Valuable support is given by partners and friends: