Want to know if it's a bad air day and you should stay inside to avoid airborne toxins? If you live in Japan, you can check a robot-created map to find out exactly what the pollen content of the air is in any given place at that moment. These cute, round robots with their friendly red eyes are actually air-sampling devices with direct links to the internet. And soon, a network of 100 air sensors called CitySense in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will perform a similar service, only looking at pollution and air pressure instead of pollen.
Since the air quality around the world is only likely to get worse before it gets better, maps like the ones produced by the Pollen Robots and CitySense may become life-savers for people living in the ultra-toxic twenty-first century. So how do they work?
According to Pink Tentacle:
The so-called "Pollen Robots," which weigh 1 kilogram (2.2 lbs) and measure 30 centimeters (1 ft) across, consist of a monitoring unit housed in a spherical styrofoam shell. A pair of eyes glow 5 different colors — white, blue, green, red and purple — to indicate the level of Japanese cedar and cypress pollen in the air. Two hundred hay fever sufferers around the country have volunteered to hang the Pollen Robots outside their homes, where they will monitor the air and send minute-by-minute reports over the Internet to Weathernews headquarters in Tokyo.
Meanwhile, CitySense is much more experimental. Here's what the NSF-sponsored project has to say for itself:
CitySense will consist of 100 wireless sensors deployed across a city, such as on light poles and private or public buildings; our current target is to deploy the network in Cambridge, MA. Each node will consist of an embedded PC, 802.11a/b/g interface, and various sensors for monitoring weather conditions and air pollutants. Most importantly, CitySense is intended to be an open testbed that researchers from all over the world can use to evaluate wireless networking and sensor network applications in a large-scale urban setting.
If you've got some ideas about what kinds of particulate matter you'd like to be monitoring in the air over Cambridge, consider getting involved with CitySense.