Through a new initiative called "AirCasting," mobile phones could be the key in helping to fight air pollution. NY1's Adam Balkin filed the following report.
Mobile phones may be one of the next powerful tools in helping to fight air pollution.
In an initiative called "AirCasting," environmental advocates at HabitatMap have enlisted the help of the engineering department from the City University of New York to create sensors that read air quality and instantly shoot the readings to mobile phones.
"AirCasting is a platform consisting of an Android application and a website for recording, mapping and sharing health and environmental data," says Michael Heimbinder from HabitatMap. "And so we both saw a common cause in developing an air quality monitor that could be wirelessly operated, so we could figure out whether the air is good or bad and work with different groups to basically address those issues."
HabitatMap was drawn to the University because of work it did on a robot filled with air quality and hazardous substance sensors that was designed to wade into disaster zones to determine whether the area is safe for humans.
"It's 120 pounds and so big, and therefore we said we need to make a smaller prototype," says Andy Zhang from CUNY/ASME. "In this case, it measures humidity and temperature, CO chemicals and nitrogen dioxide."
There's also a second robot that measures dust particles and pollen.
Part of this collaboration involves empowering users to collect data, which can help an organization in their neighborhood or just find out what's happening in their personal space.
Instructions for how to make one of these sensors have been posted online.
"AirCasting is an open source platform," Heimbinder says. "That means all the software and all the hardware, all the code is open source. Anyone can look at it, anybody's free to re-purpose it, and that's why we found common cause with a lot of different organizations and groups."
For more information on the project, to see nearby areas that may be mapped or to start a personalized map, visit HabitatMap.org.
The site is also, incidentally, where people can download instructions on how to build their own portable sensor.