My First Month as a Panton Fellow

November 1, 2013 in Panton Fellowships

So I’ve been a Panton Fellow for one month now and what have I managed to acheive?  If you missed my last blog and aren’t really aware of what the aims of my fellowship are please take a look at it. The obvious first step for my fellowship was to order one of the air quality sensors that I am planning to use in schools. I have opted for a plug and play sensor in the end which will measure nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), ozone, carbon monoxide and noise and automatically uploads the data to the web through a GPRS module. Hopefully this will be delivered in the next couple of weeks and I can start collecting some data!

Other than ordering my sensor I have been getting to know a few people within OKF and we’ve been throwing some interesting ideas around regarding open data, crowdsourcing and air quality. After a great first meeting with one of the Panton founders Peter Murray-Rust (PMR) I have really started to consider the options for open science and air quality. I am a strong believer that air quality data should be made more freely available to everyone because, let’s face it, it affects everyone. The air we breath can have such a marked impact on peoples lives- especially those who already have respiratory problems and I think it is only when we make this data available and increase awareness of the issue that we will start to see behavioural changes in society.

One of the issues that PMR, my colleagues and I discussed was whether high volumes of relatively insensitive data would be more benficial than the current situation where we have a small number of very accurate sensors taking measurements of air quality. At Leicester the Air Quality Group is doing some interesting work on this currently. We have a project underway which is looking to design a new, cheap and easy to make air quality instrument with the aim of eventually making the design open source. There are some current options available which have attempted to acheive this but the sensors which have been used are often very limited in terms of data quality. Our plan is to make something that can be of scientific value whilst also being accessible for anyone with an interest in air quality. Imagine if we could make a sensor which was cheap and easy enough to make that there were hundreds installed in homes, schools and businesses across a city- the benefits of this would be huge! This project is still in the very early stages of development but I’m really excited about it and am hoping that the contacts I make through this fellowship will help to make it a success.

So that’s a very brief update on my progress in the first month, hopefully in the next month I will finally get my hands on some sensors and actually start collecting data! If you have any questions about the project or would like more details about my fellowship in general then please do contact me.



3 responses to “My First Month as a Panton Fellow”

  1. Laura James says:

    I assume you’ve looked at the Air Quality Egg which has had lots of attention in the open hardware space and in citizen sensing more generally. I know there are some concerns in some quarters about calibration of the egg data – perhaps that’s why you aren’t using it?

    • Rosie Graves says:

      Hi Laura, yes I have looked at it (I actually have one set up in my house!) but as you say there are some issues with callibration and sensitivity and so we’re hoping to improve on this design- I am a huge fan of the concept though.

  2. Laura James says:

    Good to hear Rosie. I think the challenge here is ensuring that any design reaches a large enough community to get plenty of data points – this is a marketing and outreach problem, not a technical one. The Egg has done quite well on this I think. Of course, calibration is important – but the steps of how to get plenty of a new design deployed, especially as the “early adopters” who are keen on the space are likely to already have an Egg, will be important too, and worth thinking about early on. For example, if you thought you could reach a large set of citizen deployers who shared some common interest (I don’t know, perhaps they like pink decor on their balconies) then that could potentially steer design decisions (make sure the sensor is pink). Good luck!

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