Citizen Sensor is a DIY, open-source hardware and software initiative to bring pollution monitoring to maker and education communities. The project can be summarized as a wearable, reconfigurable sensor pack and data contextualization system that allows users to collect, share, and understand their immediate surroundings using sensors recording environmental and locative conditions. Users choose what environmental aspect to sense, and then connect with others around the world to analyze, interpret, and share knowledge and experience. The device is being developed as a bluetooth cell-phone peripheral, which pairs with an custom Android application that sends data to an online database where it is then fed to Google Maps, Earth, and LAYAR, an augmented reality platform for iPhone and Android. I am developing the hardware as a kit, so that makers can assemble and ‘hack’ theirs to their taste in terms of pollutants being measured, as well as aesthetics. I am looking to launch the project publicly during the first New York City Maker Faire, September 25 and 26, 2010.

The project consists of two parts, the first being a wearable, modular sensor pack (MSP) that collects GPS, date/time, as well as sensor-specific data that is determined by the user at all times. A specific variable sensor (SVS) is loaded into the bay, and allows the user to “plug and play” with a collection of SVS’s specifically designed to be used with the system. Currently the user can choose from carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), sound (microphone – noise pollution), light (photocells – light exposure), temperature (thermometer), humidity, and alcohol SVS modules.

Most importantly, users will be able to connect to each other through scientific (medical, environmental, research networks) as well as an online social network, and compare exposure levels from individuals around the world.

This modular sensing system which contextualizes data from multiple individuals in multiple environmental circumstances, temporally and geographically will nurture an understanding of lifestyles, and lead to communal sharing of knowledge about each other and our physical world. Tips, information, and raw data can be shared through research and social communities built surrounding the Citizen Sensor system. All data and process will be released under and open source license, so that anyone can participate by downloading data and using it any way they see fit. Or, hopefully, construct their own Sensor and become part of the collection community.

The core objective for Citizen Sensor is to quantify and contextualize, temporally and geographically, exposure to specific measurable environmental variables, in a way that allows analysis and interpretation at an individual, as well as specific human group level, in order to further the understanding of the effects of these variables on our bodies and lives as a whole.

Gaining a deeper understanding of how where we live, work and play is important in making improvements to our environment, our health, and our community. By bringing Citizen Sensor to the global scale, we can learn to relate to each other the different ways we live, and ultimately improve and grow in an individually and societally responsible way.