Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Park bench air monitoring station at Smithsonian National Zoo and city sensor networks

DC's Department of the Environment Air Quality Division and the US Environmental Protection Agency have partnered to install a park bench in the Kid's Farm section of the National Zoo which will display air quality and weather information.

The bench product is powered by solar and wind power and has been created as part of EPA's Village Green Project, which is developing and introducing products that make information about the environment more accessible through installations in public places.

According to the DDOE press release the bench:
provides real-time reliable readings on levels of fine particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), ozone, wind speed and direction, temperature, and humidity—all of which are important factors for understanding local air quality trends.

“These new solar-powered air monitoring park benches provide minute-by-minute data that can help citizens better understand air quality,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.” Our EPA researchers used the latest science to build the air monitoring systems in park bench stations, empowering people to get involved and learn more about air quality in their neighborhoods and better protect their families."

To build the air monitoring systems, EPA researchers used air sensors, miniaturized and low-power computer technology, solar panels, and other instruments. In addition to providing environmental assessment tools, the bench is made from recycled materials. It includes a built-in monitoring station equipped with solar- and wind- powered components that charge a battery, which runs the entire system.
So far there are stations in Durham, NC; Kansas City, MO; Philadelphia; and Washington.

City sensor networks. I have been thinking about city sensor networks and the display of this kind of information for awhile, starting with public bike counters, which we all know from Copenhagen, but increasingly are being installed in the US.

Image from Arlington County MobilityLab.

For example, many jurisdictions collect bike and pedestrian information, but Arlington County also has a public counter physical display in Rosslyn, which they call the Bikeometer.  They provide a dashboard that allows for online access to the data also.

I've started seeing articles about street lights as information points ("Will Streetlamps Become Information Hubs for Cities?," Government Technology), because as the lights are replaced with LED systems, the capacities and capabilities for how the lights can be used and the poles networked becomes much greater.

Smart Citizen sensor networks in Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Manchester are open source citizen developed public networks which measure different elements of the urban environment: Carbon Monoxide; Nitrogen Oxide; Temperature; Humidity; Light; and Sound.

Another topic area for which public display of information would be good is water quality.

I wonder if something like the Rosslyn Bikeometer but for water quality could be installed in association with the 11th Street Bridge Park and the Georgetown Waterfront Park.

Counters displaying information on river water quality could be installed on those highway bridges that cross rivers.

This is relevant to efforts to make rivers swimmable (e.g., Plan for a Fishable and Swimmable Anacostia River) and increasing public awareness and support and the necessary behavior changes to improve local water quality.

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1 Comments:

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Anacostia Watershed Society in Bladensburg does water quality testing and they take out anyone who wants to go if you sign up ahead of time and maybe pay a small fee - I can't remember. Water testing should also include microorganisms, certain bacteria. Not sure if that was included in your article or not.

GS

 

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