Cambridge cycle couriers mobile phones monitor air pollution on the move

January 3rd, 2008 - 5:16 pm ICT by admin  

London, January 3 (ANI): Cellphones carried by cycle couriers are helping monitor air pollution in Cambridge, UK.

Eiman Kanjo, a computer scientist at Cambridge University, has revealed that this has become possible due to the wireless pollution sensors and custom software that connect mobile phones to her research lab, and report air pollutants and their location.

“Mobiles are everywhere, and now have a lot of computing power. They can provide an alternative to expensive custom hardware and report from places that otherwise aren’t monitored,” New Scientist magazine quoted her as saying.

The researchers gave local cycle couriers air-pollution sensors and GPS units in order to connect their cellphones via Bluetooth. With the help of custom software, the phone constantly reports the quality of air and location to servers back in the lab.

“They cycle around the city as usual and we receive the data over the cellphone network. We can find out what pollutants people are exposed to and where,” says Kanjo.

Carried inside storage bins on the couriers’ bikes, the sensors record levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Following initial trials, the sensor has been made smaller, more accurate, and able to detect carbon dioxide too.

“It is about the size of a TV remote control, we should start new trials in a few weeks,” says Kanjo.

She says that the same sensor can be fixed to a pedestrian’s jacket or bag, or even given to traffic wardens in the city.

Kanjo also foresees the advent of phones with in-built GPS in future.

“Phones now are not accurate enough. I expect they will improve, so that won’t be a problem in future,” she says.

She also revealed that the system was developed with help from cellphone maker Nokia and telecoms provider O2.

According to Kanjo, her cellphone approach may even enable doctors to directly compare asthma symptoms of individuals and their exposure to air pollutants.

“We are working with doctors who are very interested in being able to correlate their patient’s symptoms with the air pollution around them,” she says.

She says that gathering such data from a large number of people over time may shed new light on the links between air pollution and asthma symptoms, perhaps allowing better preventive treatments.

Kanjos study is part of a UK project called MESSAGE, aimed at developing new ways to collect air pollution data using sensors on vehicles and people. (ANI)

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