Sensing Cities

Sketchbook for Future Cities Catapult project, Sensing Cities: reading the city in new ways, using contemporary technology to sense and solve complex problems like air quality and green infrastructure

In the moments where we do sense pollution, many of us have coping strategies for protecting ourselves. For the majority of us, that means taking small reactive measures to avoid exposure i.e. by stepping around the exhaust fumes we see, or holding our breath as we cross a busy road, or winding up our window when stuck in traffic. “[When stuck behind a bus, on my scooter] it can make me think I need to get in my car. As soon as I smell it, I hold my breath.” - K, 44, Barnet “The M25 traffic can be bad…

In partnership with ICRI and King's College, the Future Cities Catapult is adding six new sensors to its network of demonstrator sites and is also testing an innovative paint that could help clean London's air. We think this is the first experiment of its kind in an external environment. By measuring Nitrogen Dioxide pollutants it will be possible to assess the effectiveness of special photocatalytic paint applied to the surfaces in the area. If the tests indicate a substantial reduction in pollutants it could unlock the possibility that surfaces across the city could help to clean London's air. In addition…

In attempt to tackle the growing problem of air pollution, architects, scientists and designers are coming up with ways of creating buildings and surfaces that fight pollution and eat smog. Source In Mexico City there is a building designed to ‘eat smog.’ With air pollution being the top global environmental killer, people are seeking new technologies that could help neutralise the air. The Manuel Gea Gonzalez Hospital in Mexico City is one way in which technology is being interweaved into city systems to reduce air pollution. Its white façade is made up of panels that are coated with photocatalytic technology,…

Bringing artists and scientists together to visualise the risks air pollution poses to the air we breathe Invisible dust brings together artists, scientists and technologists with the aim of creating a visual language that communicates and gives people a level of awareness about complex issues such as air pollution or climate change. Some of the ways they have highlighted issues such as the invisible air pollution is through animations, films and workshops. One project entitled EXHALE was undertaken by artist Effie Coe, working with a team of doctors and scientists to come up with classroom based learning about ‘lung philosophy.…

A tool designed to find out how many hours of your life air pollution is stealing from you We may know that environmental issues such as climate change, resource depletion and air pollution have negative effects on our health and wellbeing, but due to the long term nature of these risks, it is difficult to quantify the exact effect they have on our immediate everyday lifestyles. Microlives are one way in which this challenge of long term risk perception is communicated to show impact in the short term. It is a metaphoric measurement unit that helps people comprehend how much…

I remember the moment. We were running a Sensing London workshop that brought together a number of experts in the industry of air quality, pollution sensors, technology and analytics. During our exercise discussing the pros and cons of various sensor technologies and deployment strategies (where/how/when…), someone commented that regardless of which technology will be used, we are going to get the same result: readings that indicate bad air quality! Or at least higher air pollution than we'd like. The challenge grows to: how will we create an imperative to fix the problem over and above measuring the problem?…

Through our Sensing London Project, we are partnering with Intel Collaborative Research Institute, The Royal Parks, Enfield Borough Council and ScienceScope, to instrument parts of London with a network of low cost, high quality sensors, to deliver a more detailed picture of air quality within the city. But once we have this more detailed picture, what then? How do we help people understand and engage with the data generated by this sensor network? And how do we help citizens take action to reduce air pollution? We decided to set up a Design Sprint to tackle this issue, and settled on…