CitiSense is a portable pollution monitoring system that allows you to check nearby air quality on your smart phone. Developed by computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, the system delivers real-time data to cell phones as well as home computers. Information from the CitiSense sensors is displayed in a color-coded scale—from green to red—for air quality based on EPA ratings.

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Developed by computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, CitiSense devices can be used to estimate air quality in the area where they’re deployed, providing information to everyone, not just those carrying sensors. The technology could be especially useful to people suffering from chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma. The device detects ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, pollutants mostly emitted by cars and trucks.

In order to test the device, researchers provided the sensors to 30 users for a period of four weeks. The results showed that the sensors were not only useful for the users, but provided a valuable means of data collection for studying urban pollution. Contrary to the general belief, pollution doesn’t diffuse equally in the air—it remains concentrated in hot spots, along major traffic routes and intersections. Using the sensors, users were able to get a better understanding of the behavior of air pollutants within urban areas.

Since CitiSense devices can be deployed in a large area, the amount of relevant data far exceeds the potentials of a small number of EPA-mandated air-quality monitoring stations. Researchers hope that CitiSense could build and deploy a wireless network in which hundreds of small sensors carried by ordinary people send information to the central computers. From there, the data would be delivered to individuals and public health agencies.


Photo credit: Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego