2012-04-24

Co.Exist

The Air Quality Egg Will Let You Know Exactly What You're Breathing

This adorable little sensor might yield less than adorable results: The air around you can be quite bad for you. Now you can know precisely how bad.

It’s a good thing that the government monitors air pollution in your neighborhood, keeping tabs on the toxins you’re breathing in. Oh wait, it’s not. In fact, federal, state, and local agencies rely on just 3,000 "ambient air and deposition monitoring networks" to monitor major pollutants in all of North America (PDF). That’s approximately one for every 1,200 square miles (and you’re pretty much out of luck if you live in Nevada).

But a new sensor network is being built—one adorable little DIY egg at a time. Meet the Air Quality Egg, a system hatched to create a network of open-source sensors and a data platform that will turn everyone into an atmospheric scientist (or at least a data collector).

"The Air Quality Egg is a sensor system designed to allow anyone to collect very high-resolution readings of NO2 and CO concentrations outside of their home," according to the project’s Kickstarter campaign which has collected three times more than their $39,000 goal. "Each Egg that comes online contributes data that, in aggregate, will provide what is essentially an 'air quality API.'"

That API, or data feed, will yield an international stream of data about concentrations of air pollution such as nitrous oxide (a precursor to ozone) and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the primary driver of climate change. A second set of sensors can also measure ozone (O3), volatile organic compounds, radiation, and particulates.

It works by positioning small electronic sensors outside your home which send regular radio signals to the egg-shaped base station inside. The data is relayed to open data service Pachube, which allows you to check out your local atmospheric profile, generate tweets and SMS alerts for certain pollutants and unleash a global coder community on an unprecedented new dataset.

The whole system—open-source hardware and software—-can be ordered fully assembled ($100) or as a kit ($70) for the DIY crowd. So the next time someone asks you about the weather, you can tell them more than they wanted to know.

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3 Comments

  • TOMGILLILANatGMAIL

     There is a real need for something like this. Air quality is political, which means that no one in government cares. Coupled with the fact that air boards are run by professional liars who have little to no health literacy.

  • TOMGILLILANatGMAIL

    How does this system work?

    Here in Los Angeles you can walk out of your house and almost die from breathing the air and the California Air Board repeatedly tells us that the air is better than it ever has been and is getting better all the time.

    Here in Los Angeles the air we breathe is PUBLIC HEALTH ENEMY NUMBER ONE. In an area where millions of people live in very close proximity to each other and with the background air being already the most polluted in the country from the zillions of cars and trucks in use every day, the the legislators in charge of air quality allow unlimited burning of wood in fireplaces and barbeques (charcoal is wood). Every home has electricity and natural gas, so there is no valid reason to use wood  to heat the home or cook your food. You could think that the legislators were intentionally trying to kill their own citizens, and not be far off the mark.

    Long Beach-Los Angeles is now recognized as having the most unhealthy breathing air in the country, and is slowly killing all of us.

    IF YOU TRAVEL TO LOS ANGELES-LONG BEACH BRING YOUR OWN AIR