2009 Dec. 7: Cell phones will help computer scientists monitor air pollution

Cell phones will help computer scientists monitor air pollution

University of California, San Diego computer scientists are creating a network of environmental sensors that will help you avoid air pollution hot spots in everyday life.
You want to go for a run, but you don’t want to run in polluted air that might aggravate your asthma. University of California, San Diego computer scientists are creating a network of environmental sensors that will help you avoid air pollution hot spots that exist exactly when you are planning your route. The system will provide up-to-the-minute information on outdoor and indoor air quality, based on environmental information collected by hundreds, and eventually thousands, of sensors attached to the backpacks, purses, jackets and board shorts of San Diegans going about daily life.
This is “CitiSense“the vision of computer scientists from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. The interdisciplinary team recently won a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to solve the many technical challenges that stand in the way of applications that merge the cyber and physical worlds.
“San Diego County has 3.1 million residents, 4,000 square miles, and only five official EPA air quality monitors. We know about the air quality in those exact spots but we know much less about the air quality in other places. Our goal is to give San Diegans up-to-the-minute environmental information about where they live, work and playinformation that will empower anyone in the community to make healthier choices,” said William Griswold, the principal investigator on the grant and a professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
The goal of CitiSense is to build and deploy a wireless network in which hundreds or thousands of small environmental sensors carried by the public rely on cell phones to shuttle information to central computers where it will be analyzed, anonymized and reflected back out to individuals, public health agencies and San Diego at large. At the same time, the sensor-wearing public will have the option to also wear biological monitors that collect basic health information, such as heart rate. This combination of sensors will enable the team’s medical team to run exacting health science research projects, such as investigating how particular environmental pollutants affect human health. Dr. Kevin Patrick from UC San Diego’s California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and the UCSD School of Medicine will lead the medical efforts.
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