A growing group of Calgarians are taking the initiative to build a smart city: They’re adopting aBow_river_hiir quality sensors that feed into the SensorUp Smart Cities Platform. From there, the data combine to form a city-wide map of air quality

Feeding the data into SensorUp’s Smart Cities Platform makes the information accessible. The platform can be queried via the API to produce a map of all the readings throughout the city. The map is then made available to the public on the web. Effectively, this combines distributed air quality readings into a single cohesive, monitoring system.

SensorUp, a Calgary-based Internet of Things startup, is providing the Smart Cities platform that makes this possible. The platform is based on the OGC standard “SensorThings API”, so the data are standardized. Because the standard is open, the data format and interface protocol are known. Ultimately, this means data can be queried and be re-used for any purpose.

linkitoneThe primary goal of the citizen science project is to demonstrate smart cities. Smart cities are cities that use automatic monitoring to collect data, as well as data science and machine learning to understand the messages the data is sending. Insights can inform city plans and actions. Insights can also be fed back into the sensor network to automatically adjust to changing conditions as they are monitored. Think changing traffic light timing on the fly to respond to congested conditions. In general, this can help make city services more efficient, provide better service at lower costs. Smart Cities can potentially provide innovative new services: Expect benefits ranging from monitoring existing infrastructure, to planning maintenance schedules and avoiding breakdowns, to helping traffic flow more efficiently on a day-to-day basis, to as-yet unthought-of possibilities.

In Calgary, citizens are showing that distributed air quality sensors can come together. The sensors take advantage of hardware trends toward cheaper, better, and faster; they can be deployed widely, and as such, they provide geographic coverage in air quality readings. But, any type of sensor data can be brought into the same platform. For example, wind speed and direction, and air temperature and pressure could be brought in as well. So, where we currently have an air quality map for public use, we could also reuse and recombine the same data. Then, for example, researchers could use it to understand how air quality responded to an event such as fireworks in one end of town.

A full stack of tech and communications components make all this possible. There are the actual sensing devices, the network they use to communicate, the database and servers that store and deliver the data, and the analytics, dashboards, and web applications that present the data to city staff, municipal service planners, and the public.

SensorUp is holding a Make-your-own Sensor Workshop this weekend for techies who want to assemble their own air quality sensor, and then deploy it at home. There’s still time to sign up: smartcities.sensorup.com/become-a-smart-citizen/

poster