Monday, 20 July 2009

CitySensing - Environmental Sensors Available

Together with the GPS tracking technology also a whole bunch of other sensors are now available in rather small format, cheep prize and can easily be combined. So sensing the environment in a small scale is becoming possible, even popular.
A number of projects are under way. Here I put together some example.
This sort of information is especially interesting to learn more about microclimates. The knowledge regarding fine scale environmental information in cities is relatively low. With the now widely available technology it becomes possible to sense and record the environment as a pedestrian, or a cyclist. This in turn could collect the data to generate a better picture of microclimates.
Mobile phones as electronic devices that a large number of people are carrying around daily could become potentially sensors and record and transmit environmental related information in a large scale.
Research that develops prototypes for this kind of data collection is undertaken at Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute by Eric Paulos. “How would it change your ideas about moving around in the world, if you could suddenly sense things you couldn’t see?” he asks. As a respond to this work some Phone manufacturer have already expressed interest, as he reports in the seed magazine.

Probably a good element for DIY made sensors is the Ardurino open source platform, software and hardware. “Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” (From

An environmental sensing project runs in Paris. It is called “la montre verte” and is so far about a “green watch“. It grew out of the idea to mobilize the 1000 fixed environmental sensors around Paris and generate more accurate real time data. So far 30 prototypes of the green watch have been produced and are tested at the moment in Paris.
The team has produced some beautiful visualization from the collected data. It is built on a Google Map with a detailed interactive interface to select and replay the collected data.

Image from la montre verte

CamMobSens (Cambridge Mobile Urban Sensing) also works on a sensing project similar to the Paris project. So far they have collected data around Cambridge.

Image from CamMobSense

A short clip of the data can be seen here, a paper has been published on the project.

Nokia is very active and always experimenting with new technologies. Of course they are also developing something related to the topic of extended environmental sensors. They have a dedicated project webpage on And of course there are also products, not yet ready. It is on the nokia page described as: ”The concept consists of two parts – a wearable sensor unit which can sense and analyze your environment, health, and local weather conditions, and a dedicated mobile phone. The sensor unit will be worn on a wrist or neck strap made from solar cells that provide power to the sensors. NFC (near field communication) technology will relay information by touch from the sensors to the phone or to or to other devices that support NFC technology.“ Nokia’s eco sensor concept:

Image from nokia

Integrating environmental live data into further digital development on the computer, on this are the people from pachub working. They have developed a plug in for Sketch up to use live sensore information to feed into the SketchUp platform. Information on it i on their blog.

Pachube2SketchUp: plug in realtime sensor & environment data from Pachube on Vimeo.

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