Open hardware sensors for citizen science
Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability & Social Innovation
Running citizens science activities means engaging citizens and communities in research processes. In the case of the MAKING SENSE project, citizens are not only involved in science initiatives but are protagonists of the research process from design to data analysis. In fact, communities involved in the project activities’ co-designed sensor kits, use them at local levels following a precise and self-defined agenda, and use the results for taking action at the policy level for improving the life of their cities. The focus is on different types of pollution, including soil, air and noise pollution and the lessons learned could be very useful for other communities around Europe.
Description of the outcome
MAKING SENSE has developed various open source sensors enabling citizens to capture data to better understand their living environments, and have informed discussions about environmental issues in order to take action to achieve real-world results – including a healthier city.
Until recently, environmental sensors were expensive and scarce, although the need for them was evident. From 2010, the open hardware community has developed several open source alternatives to existing sensors, including the Air Quality Egg, SafeCast and the Smart Citizen Kit. In the context of MAKING SENSE, the Smart Citizen Kit has been developed much further, effectively becoming an open platform for (aspiring) citizen scientists. Also, MAKING SENSE has developed the open source BORA sensor which enables citizens to accurately measure fine particles, humidity and NOx (nitrogen oxides, which are crucial gases for air pollution).
More precisely, the Smart Citizens Kit combines sensors and a data-processing board and includes a battery and an enclosure. The sensors measure air composition (CO and NO2), temperature, humidity, light intensity and sound levels. When ready and activated, the Kit sends data using a Wi-Fi connection to the Smart Citizens platform were the data are visualised. The Kit is compatible with Arduino and all the design files are Open Source and available on GitHub.
The BORA Kit is focused on air quality sensing activity. It implements the NO2-B43F Alphasense sensor to detect NO2. The NO2 gas is usually present in outdoor conditions but the Kit also includes a Dust Sensor, a PPD42NS Shinyei optical device which checks the level of PM2.5 and PM10. To provide a better understanding of the data and the behaviour of the sensors, the BORA Kit also has a temperature/humidity sensor, DHT22. The communication is based on the WiFi module: ESP8266 and the main functionality of the Kit is based on the Arduino UNO hardware platform.
For the SmartCitizens kit see the video at:
What you need to use it
Open hardware sensors for citizen science
For assembling the Smart Citizen Kit, interested persons will need to read the open source documentation, obtain the parts, assemble the boards and upload the software on it.
For using already-assembled kits, citizens will need to perform the on boarding process, place their sensor and start interpreting the results.
To use the BORA Kit, citizens will need a power wall socket, a WiFi network and a device (ex: smartphone, tablet) to connect the Kit to the local network. The parts to assemble the device are mostly off-the-shelf materials and the interface boards can be made in a digital fabrication laboratory, like a FabLab or produced by a factory using the digital files provided in the documentation. The case is done using universal stackable cable box. The data can be visualized on the smartcitizen.me website once the device is added from the web account.
Due to the nature of NO2 sensor, the BORA Kit can be used to detect absolute values of NO2 if the sensor is calibrated. In case the calibration is not possible, the data can be used to understand fluctuations of the NO2 level during short (daily) or long (monthly) cycles. The kit can also be used to detect levels and picks of a particulate matter, in both conditions outdoor and indoor. The configuration process of the Kit doesn’t require programming skills and the Kit can be connected to the WiFi network using a smartphone. The process is described in the technical documentation on Github.
Do you want to contribute?
- For the Smart Citizens Kit documentation is available here: https://github.com/fablabbcn/smartcitizen-kit
- A forum for finding support and more about the project is available at: https://forum.smartcitizen.me/.
- API documentation is accessible at: http://developer.smartcitizen.me/
- For more detailed hardware specifications visit docs.smartcitizen.me
- For more information on the BORA Kit please see: https://www.fablabs.io/projects/bora-sensor-kit
- The full documentation is available at: https://github.com/waagsociety/air_quality_sensor_kit/tree/master/Bora_Kit
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