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Did you know that scientists use smartphones to monitor air pollution levels in San Diego?

Did you know that scientists use smartphones to monitor air pollution levels in San Diego?
Nowadays, we're comfortable with the fact that smartphones are useful for great many a things. But the stuff some people do with their handsets is still able to surprise us, the hardcore mobile tech journos! Check this out - a report by says that computer scientists at the University of California have built portable pollution sensors that let users monitor air quality in real time on their smartphones. In fact, the system which is named CitiSens, is apparently the only air quality monitoring system capable of delivering real time data straight to users' phones and computers. In case you wondered, you're not always supposed to carry a sensor, as the service can provide information to anyone with the app.

Just 100 of the sensors scattered over a sizeable area can generate "a wealth of data" about ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide content inside the air we breathe. These are the most common pollutants in city areas, emitted mostly by vehicles. According to data presented at the Wireless Health 2012 conference in San Diego, pollution remains concentrated in hot spots, along main roads and at intersections. The report also revealed that, unfortunately, "the people who are doing the most to reduce emissions, by biking or taking the bus, were the people who experienced the highest levels of exposure to pollutants."

Users discovered that pollution varied not only based on location, but also on the time of the day. When professor Charles Elkan drove into work in mid-morning, the readings on his sensor were low. But when he drove back home in rush hour in the afternoon, readings were sometimes very high. Elkan also added that the sensors used by CitiSense would be built into smartphones one day, letting everyone interested keep tabs on the pollution levels they encounter every day.

The project's ultimate goal is to build and deploy a wireless network in which hundreds of small environmental sensors carried by the public rely on cell phones to shuttle information to central computers for analysis and delivery to individuals, public health agencies and the community at large. The sensors currently cost $1,000 per unit, but could easily be mass-produced at an affordable price. So far, Griswold's team has built and deployed 20 of them in the field.


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