Image courtesy of Eiman Kanjo
Here's a novel feature we bet even the latest high-tech cellphones don't yet have: the ability to track air pollution. A team of bicycle couriers in Cambridge, UK, has been using special sensor-equipped cellphones to monitor air pollution in the city and beam the data back to a research lab at Cambridge University.
Eiman Kanjo, a computer scientist who is leading the technical development for the project, explained that simple, ubiquitous devices like cellphones - which are increasingly being invested with more computing power - provide better alternatives to "expensive custom hardware" and can "report from places that otherwise aren't monitored." The cellphones connect to the couriers' sensors and GPS units via Bluetooth to provide a constant stream of air quality data that can be beamed back to servers in the lab.The sensors - each about the size of a television remote control - are able to record levels of various pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide; you can peep the results of one trial run on this interactive map. This research is part of a larger project, known as MESSAGE, which is focused on developing novel techniques to measure and collect air pollution data with sensors.
In the future, Kanjo believes the cellphone system could be combined with other technologies to provide information about users' health symptoms. For example, by combining it with a device to measure lung function, doctors could attempt to determine if there exists a direct link between a patient's asthma symptoms and the ambient air quality. Nokia and O2, a British telecoms provider, helped develop the system.
Via ::New Scientist Environment: Cyclists' cellphones help monitor air pollution (news website)