AirKit: A Citizen-Sensing Toolkit
Air pollution is a planetary health emergency. Nearly 9 million people worldwide die from air pollution every year. Many people also suffer from ongoing health problems due to air pollution, including asthma, cardiac and pulmonary problems, and even neurological impairment. Air quality monitors are not always located where air pollution is occurring, and citizens might have many reasons to gather data to document and analyze air quality. AirKit brings together information for you to set up a citizen-sensing project to monitor particulate matter and keep track of air quality in your area.
Monitoring with the Dustbox
Because PM has a significant effect on health, and existing monitoring networks are not entirely effective in identifying localized pollution sources, we have developed the AirKit toolkit for communities to set up citizen-sensing networks. This toolkit includes the AirKit Logbook, the Dustbox 2.0 sensor, this Airsift data analysis platform, and a Data Stories tool for compiling your evidence for wider circulation. We have also published Covid Data Stories, as well as data stories on this platform, which were developed while testing this toolkit with participants in Forest Hill, London.
The Dustbox 2.0 is a particulate matter monitor designed by Citizen Sense to undertake air quality sensing. The monitor measures 3 different environmental variables: (1) particulate matter (2) temperature and (3) humidity. We have designed the Dustbox 2.0 to measure these variables every minute. Such fine-grained data can help to observe and understand even small variations in the surrounding air.
The Dustbox 2.0 monitor shape resembles particulate matter, including pollen and diesel particles, when magnified under an electron microscope. The housing is 3D-printed, and uses a Plantower PMS5003 sensor to sense particles. These sensors have infrared laser counters that measure airborne particulate matter. There is a small fan that draws air into the sensor and passes it through a laser that can detect the concentration and size of particles in the air. The Dustbox 2.0 connects to a Wi-Fi network using a microcontroller and sends data to the Airsift platform for analysis. For more information on how to use and/or build your own Dustbox 2.0, see the "Building a Dustbox 2.0" instructions in our AirKit Logbook.
You can click on individual Dustboxes either by number or on the map to see PM, temperature and humidity data over the last 24 hours. If you would like to analyze Dustbox data in more depth, you can select the Analysis tool to compare Dustbox data over longer time spans. Select the time period you would like to analyze, the PM measurement, data resolution, visualization mode and Dustboxes to generate plots and graphs. You might want to begin by selecting a time frame of one month or less, using hourly data compared across two Dustboxes, for instance. Using tools on the upper right-hand side of the plot or graph, you can download the analysis as a png (which you can upload into a Data Story), or zoom in, pan, and more closely investigate the analysis.
In addition to Dustbox data that you can analyze through Airsift, you can use Airsift to map Observations about your local area. Observation data can reveal possible sources of pollution and identify concerns in your local community. The data can also help you to explain spikes or anomalies in the data produced by Dustboxes and understand local spikes and trends. Observations might include things that you smell (burning), hear (traffic noise), see (smog, development activity) or feel (i.e. health effects). They can also include news about related to pollution, including warnings of high levels of pollution or reports about fires.
If you would like to gather your citizen data, observations, and data analysis together into stories that show where and when pollution is occurring, you can use the Data Story tool to compile your evidence. By following the Data Story instructions, you can document the types of emission sources detected, observations in the area, air pollution data from the Dustbox and other sources, and propose actions for addressing pollution where it is detected.
Contact and Acknowledgements
The Citizen Sense and AirKit projects are led by Professor Jennifer Gabrys. AirKit has been developed working in collaboration with Dr Sachit Mahajan and Dr Joanne Armitage. Thanks are due to our additional collaborators including:
Common Knowledge contributed to the overall development of this Airsift platform. Lau Thiam Kok and Tassos Noulas contributed to the development of the data architecture that informed the Airsift platform. Sarah Garcin developed the graphic design of the AirKit Logbook webpage and PDF.
The Citizen Sense Dustbox 2.0 included collaborative contributions to the materials design and 3D printing by Andrea Rinaldi, who built on an earlier Citizen Sense Dustbox 1.0 designs developed in collaboration with Francesca Perona and Helen Pritchard.
Special thanks are due to the participants and residents in the Forest Hill area of London who contributed to the development and testing of AirKit and the Dustbox 2.0, as well as to the collection and analysis of data and communication of results to wider publics and regulators. For more information on project contributors, see Citizen Sense People.
The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n. 313347, “Citizen Sensing and Environmental Practice: Assessing Participatory Engagements with Environments through Sensor Technologies” (2013-2018), and from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (ERC Grant Agreement n. 779921), “AirKit: Citizen Sense Air Monitoring Kit” (2019-2020) Further funding was received through an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account from the University of Cambridge (2020).
AirKit is available to use under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. You are free to use, adapt, and share this toolkit for non-commercial purposes under the same CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license, and with attribution to Citizen Sense.
This is a pilot project that we continue to develop and refine, including by adding additional data sources. Please contact us if you have comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org