Imagine: you’re gearing up to take a jog along your regular route when an app on your smartphone pushes out a message: air pollution levels are high in the park where you like to run, so maybe you should try a recommended route that’s cleaner today. It doesn’t sound incredibly far-fetched; many cities already have pollution and weather sensors. But they’re usually located on top of buildings, far from human activity.
Intel has developed sensors that can be placed closer to the ground—on lamp posts and traffic lights, for example—to create what Intel senior principal engineer Terry O’Shea calls "a community-based approach to sensing."
Intel is piloting a deployment of its pollution and weather sensors within a month in Dublin, Ireland. The goal: to put the sensors on both main roads and smaller streets to see if the company can create a real-time picture of health in the city. The weather sensors can track temperature, humidity, wind direction, and wind speed, while the pollution sensors track oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
There are a number of use cases for the technology—asthma sufferers will obviously benefit greatly, for example. According to O’Shea, a canal effect causes wind blowing along major thoroughfares to peel off into side streets and alleyways, where air contaminants end up as a result. So in big cities, "when it’s too hot and you want to open the windows, you want to know if you’ll get a bunch of pollution because there’s a big baseball game happened that day," he says.
Eventually, Intel anticipates that sensors already in smartphones will also contribute to weather and pollution data aggregation. "Data coming from people on the streets can be aggregated back to city management dashboards," explains Intel Labs researcher Jessica McCarthy.
Intel won’t reveal how much the sensors cost—they’re still in the prototype phase, anyway—but O’Shea says that they are " two orders of magnitude below the cost level" of current sensors.