Plume Labs, the makers of the app AirReport, is doing something a little different to tackle London’s air pollution problem – it’s using IoT and pigeons.
The company has begun strapping IoT sensors that incorporate geolocation technology to the backs of pigeons to detect ozone, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful compounds wherever they fly in the city.
Ten of the birds are involved overall, and the sensors also provide real-time data on pollution conditions. It’s then all collected to calculate levels and danger zones.
Londoners are able to receive updates on pollution levels in different areas of the city via the @PigeonAir Twitter account. This is as part of an alliance formed between Plume Labs and the social networking giant.
Data can also be found on the Pigeon Air Patrol microsite, which sports a live map of the pigeons’ flights and information about the health risks of air pollution. There’s a direct link to the Plume Air mobile app, too.
The app, which is available on both Android and iOS, informs you about the pollution level of your city and how it’ll change over the next few hours. You then get tailored updates on when you can go out without being overexposed to harmful elements in the air.
Romain Lacombe, chief executive of Plume Labs, understands that air pollution is a major problem and believes that this project raises awareness.
He said: “Air pollution is a huge environmental health issue, killing nearly 10,000 people every year in London alone.
“Putting air sensors on the back of pigeons goes beyond raising awareness of this problem and helps Londoners understand the impact of pollution in an accessible, tangible and immediate way.”
Can IoT help with smart cities pollution?
The idea is the brainchild of Pierre Duquesnoy and Matt Daniels, who work at marketing and technology agency DigitasLBi. They submitted it to Twitter’s #PoweredbyTweets competition and ended up winning in the ‘Solve a Problem’ category.
Duquesnoy told The Guardian: “It is a scandal. It is a health and environmental scandal for humans — and pigeons. “We’re making the invisible visible.
“Most of the time when we talk about pollution, people think about Beijing or other places, but there are some days in the year when pollution was higher and more toxic in London than Beijing, that’s the reality.”
Paul Shepherd, the founder and CEO of Welsh digital agency Coup Media and the Oi Conference, sees potential of dealing with pollution through smart cities.
He said: “IoT could help with pollution in the development of smart cities whereby lighting could react to footfall, driverless cars could grant access to – rather than ownership of – vehicles, reducing the number of vehicles on the roads and therefore the amount of pollution.”
Sarah Weller, CEO of Mubaloo Innovation Labs, is optimistic that IoT can be used to find solutions that can eradicate air pollution altogether.
She told Internet of Business: “There is huge potential for IoT and sensors to help gather information on pollution to inform solutions to help reduce pollution in the air and water, soil.
“External sensors can be placed in the relevant environments to detect levels of certain pollutants, like CO2 levels or levels of toxic chemicals, for example.
“Driven by IoT this information can be fed into backend systems and the data can be used to evaluate pollutions levels and drive action.
“Contextual IoT is about connecting things to drive intelligence and the ability to remotely manage, diagnose and react to what is happening in real-time.”