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Open, community sensing and a first person narrative could be an workable alternative for conventional emission reduction initiatives



Air pollution problem is a major disease (1) burden in urban area. It is closely related with climate change by common causative of transport and industrial related emission sources. Thus clearing air pollution problem in urban centers means a tangible benefit for climate change mitigation efforts. The air pollution problem is complex and a tragedy of common, it requires collective action where the conventional top down authoritarian regulatory measures are failing to tackle. This proposal experiment the practicality of a bottom up mechanism for informed decision and subsequent collective action towards personal emission trading by local community. Here personal emission trading is considered as a workable instrument for reducing air pollutant emission. The actions basically creation of infrastructure to know about air pollution level by local community (Particulate matter pollution). Create a dissemination and deliberation facility on these monitoring results to campaign for collective action towards emission reduction instruments particularly emission trading scheme.

Key actor

Grassroots neighborhood organizations

What actions do you propose?

Action 1

To develop a open hardware and community sensing based air pollution monitoring network.

Action 2

Use the data from the network to develop a first person narrative urban air web site with social network feed.

Action 3

Use these facility to campaign and feasibility test for a collective consensus and action towards pollution trading scheme.

Notes on actions

Open hardware

Open source methodology is reached a stage of viable production and development pathway in software sector(2). Open source hardware also follows the same surge and promises (3). Developments in open source micro controllers such as Arduino is playing a major role in that surge. Inexpensive and easy usability makes them one of the rapid prototyping and development tools especially related with sensing and monitoring requirements. This is forecast as the important enablers in creating basic environmental monitors, which can provide more intense and relevant real time data for richer evidence based decision making and related applications.

For example, the crowd funded project air quality egg(4) is an Arduino based air quality monitor. By following open source, crowd funding development model it achieve the objectives of being a low cost and high intense distributed real time air quality sensor networks. Currently, the developed sensing system is capable of sense air pollutant such as Nitrogen dioxide and Carbon monoxide. Though the sensor and the data generated from it is inferior to commercial sensors, it has great potential in establishing high intense monitoring network. The Current current proposal in Coimbatore aims to develop a real time particulate matter monitor. The monitor is based on low cost dust sensor coupled with chromatic modulation technique.


Standards and specifications directs the interoperability, accessibility and usability of different kind of services and applications. In World Wide Web, standards (5) has ensured the simple and affordable access of Internet and its various applications. This same logic was applied in adopting the Sensor Web Enablement (SWE) specifications for naturally and functionally diversified environmental sensor networks (6). Open Geo spatial Consortium spear head SWE specifications development (7). Sensor Web Enablement specifications are set of standards comprised of information and service models to access and control the heterogeneous sensor resources (8). For example in Taiwan (9) Sensor Web Enablement specifications were used for managing heterogeneous sensors directed for debris flow monitoring. It organize and manages divers sensor resources such as Geophones, mobile and fixed monitoring stations for a coordinated functionality of risk preparedness and disaster management. Current project in Coimbatore region is applying SWE specifications for particulate monitor and integrate with other available sensor resources. The objective is to implement air pollution modeling Web Processing Services (WPS) utilizing real time data from Sensor Observation Service (SOS) of particulate monitor and other real time data of study location available in Internet such as meteorological and remote sensed information. Using Open GeoSMS specifications the project is set to disseminate the information upon location-specific queries.

Community sensing

To achieve better socio-ecological system understanding, it is increasingly stressed to have public involvement for close collaboration among user community and scientificestablishments (10). It is increasingly felt that organizing people from different disciplines and social backgrounds can accomplish the needed community organization to manage the public goods (11) and enriches the localized contextual knowledge (12). This makes the community participation a part of environmental monitoring initiatives. This sets out a environmental monitoring program which is to be both enriching and involving the common public of a locality to get know about the level of complexity and interrelationship of their surrounding and encourage to find the solution for problems (13). The new initiative of community sensing for air pollution shows bottom up form of air pollution monitoring in urban spaces (14). Instead of conventional top up air pollution monitoring regime where the whole process is driven for regulatory compliances or research purposes, community sensing proposes a open infrastructure comprised of heterogeneous sensor owned or carried by community for air pollution monitoring. The utilitarian model based set up of this inthe city of Lausanne, Switzerland shows that, it is a quite workable model to drive the community involvement (14). The current project in Coimbatore is following community sensing model.

First person narratives

From Talking earth system proposal

“Historically personification or first person narratives has been a great help for communicating environmental movements. We can see those features in Silent Spring, An Inconvenient Truth or more directly in movement itself like Chipko Movement. On the other hand, there is a growing number of works exemplifies that those expressions can generate huge popular attentions, Talking tree, Talking tom mobile app and Tamagotchis virtual pet are some examples. Along with these, there are analogies in computer programming where compilers are used to translate between human readable to machine readable language, which can be followed for translating between sensor readings into first person narratives of sensed feature.” The current propsal will be using this personification to disseminate the air pollution information. It basically translation of the “real time earth system monitoring data into classes, describing in a plain language first person narrative and disseminating that as a popular social network post”. It will be acting as a deliberation facility to discuss about the pollution level though the active communication mode of first person narratives. For a extension the project will be developing outdoor activity based on platform Aircasting. It is a activity for students for a location specific querying of particulate matter pollution and reflection on the pollution level.

Who will take these actions?

For action 1

Research institutes or NGOs can take action to coordinate the community and setup the monitoring network. EIA Division of Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History is having a project to set up the monitoring network in Coimbatore, a urban center in India and will be coordinating the action two and three.

For action 2

The Public relation office of the monitoring network.

For action 3

The Public relation office of the monitoring network.

Where will these actions be taken?

In Urban centers, as a piolet study in Coimbatore city, Tamil Nadu, India

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Globally, urban centers are contributing about 70% of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions(2). Recent report(1) shows that air pollution is a major causative of premature mortality and other deadly disease. Any effort in reducing this disease burden will be a significant GHG emission reduction step.

What are other key benefits?

What are the proposal’s costs?

U$ 20,000 for establishing a low cost particulate matter monitoring network.

US$ 10,000 for continuing the study and campaign for two years

Time line

December 2013 for completing action 1

Jun 2014 for completing action 2

Jun 2015 for completing action 3

Related proposals

This proposal is related with Shifting cultures for a changing climate

competition proposal entry- Talking Earth systems.


1. Lelieveld, J., Barlas, C., Giannadaki, D., and Pozzer, A.: Model calculated global, regional and megacity premature mortality due to air pollution, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 13, 7737-7766, doi:10.5194/acpd-13-7737-2013, 2013.

2. Global report on Human Settlements 2011, Cities and Climate Change- UN HABITAT

2. Hansen, André, and ThomasJ. Howard. 2013. “The Current State of Open Source Hardware: The Need for an Open Source Development Platform.” In ICoRD’13 SE - 77, ed. Amaresh Chakrabarti and Raghu V Prakash, 977–988 LA – English. Springer India. doi:10.1007/978-81-322-1050-4_77.

3. Weber, Steve. 2004. The Success of Open Source. MA: Harvard UP.


5. O’Reilly, Tim. 2007. “What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software.” Communications & Strategies 1 (First Quarter): 17.

6. Bröring, A, J Echterhoff, S Jirka, I Simonis, T Everding, C Stasch, and S Liang. 2011. “New Generation Sensor Web Enablement.” Sensors 11: 2652–99.



9. Ko, HY, YM Fang, and YH Chang. 2010. “The New Thinking of Application on Debris Flow Monitoring.” In Int. Symp. Pacific Rim, 776–784.

10. Jasanoff, S. 1997. “Conversations with the Community: AAAS at the Millennium.” ScienceScience 278 (5346).

11. Elinor Ostrom on resilient social-ecological systems, 2007,

12. Gadgil, M. 2003. “Exploring the Role of Local Ecological Knowledge in Ecosystem Management: Three Case Studies.” In Navigating Social-ecological Systems: Building Resilience for Complexity and Change, 189–209.

13. Nishadh, KA, and PA Azeez. 2012. “Sensor Webs for Environmental Research.” ArXiv E-prints 1209.0622.

14. K Aberer, S Sathe, D Chakraborty, A Martinoli, G Barrenetxea, B Faltings and L Thiele (2010). OpenSense: Open Community Driven Sensing of Environment. IWGS ’10, San Jose, CA, USA.