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Filed under: Development 2.0 Environment Health Social inclusion

*This post was originally published on the UNDP site in Montenegro

Air Quality Egg early prototype

Air Quality Egg early prototype

As you gaze through your window, do you ever wonder what the air quality is outside? And not at the place where the measuring station checks it – I mean right there, on your balcony?

I’m an environmental monitoring geek, so this is one of the questions that keeps me amused: how can we harness modern technology in order to let people know about the air quality right where they are located, about noise levels, or how clean the sea is when they go on vacation?

For example, can you imagine yourself dipping your smartphone in the water at your favorite beach to double check whether the PH levels are just right?

Amazingly enough, this isn’t a tech question. A new study finds that the impact of pollution on health is at the same level as malaria and tuberculosis.

In a September 2012 study, the European Environment Agency notes that despite significant improvements, the concentration of air pollutants in the European Union remains high. From the perspective of engagement, the environmental chapter of the acquis is fully in line with the Aarhus Convention. These two horizontal pieces of legislation call for increasing awareness and participation of citizens in environmental decision making. In short, better data makes for better decisions, and better decisions make for better lives.

With all this in mind, Montenegro’s Agency for Environmental Protection and UNDP are organizing a get together with the founders of Air Quality Egg, with the aim to experiment with an innovative, real time method of measuring air quality.

The name of this device comes from its form, which looks like an egg. So, what is it about this device that we are so excited about?

  • Affordable and real-time. The Air Quality Egg crew can build $100 air quality sensors that can be mounted on your window or balcony. Sure, the quality of information is likely not to be on par with far more expensive state monitoring systems. But with sufficient scale of the low cost solution, we are likely to have a better sense of trends in real time. We’ll have a new collective voice of people who are curious, interested and engaged in the discussion, and we may get a clue about those areas that aren’t currently covered by official data sets.
  • Scalable. We hope to have non governmental organizations (NGOs), universities, and students on board during the two days, and together with Wicked Device, we’ll learn how to build the sensors ourselves. This is incredibly powerful – imagine thousands of these around the country measuring air quality and engaging discussion about how to improve the system.
  • Open. After certain calibrations of the platform where the data from all sensors is collected, the information will be open to everyone. What can we all do with the data? Well, that’s a matter of working with the system.
  • Growing community. Montenegro will become a member of a thriving Air Quality Egg community. In our region, only Hungary has begun growing a network of sensors. This initiative will network Montenegro with other countries, and who knows what type of emerging new ideas will come out of it.

So please mark the date: 10 and 11 December. We’ll live stream the event and we’ll be live tweeting - stay tuned for the hashtag and a web address for live streaming, we’ll post another update before the event.

  • Thomas Winderl

    Love it. A similar devise (but looking like a house instead) is http://waag.org/en/project/smart-citizen-kit – with low-cost sensors that measure air composition (CO and NO²), temperature, light intensity, sound levels, and humidity.

    Thomas Winderl, Ph.D., MBA
    Consultant for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation
    http://www.winderl.net