Copenhagen Layer: realtime air quality around you

Reality view

Copenhagen Layer in Reality view

Now that the Copenhagen Conference is over we are left with a disappointing end statement. Apparently this was the maximum our world leaders could achieve when they got together: the potential was huge, the output (very) disappointing.

In this light I’m very proud to present a local grass-roots initiative to bring street level measurements of environmental pollution to the real time web and your mobile phone.

Please meet and its Augmented Reality counter part Copenhagen Layer (link opens Layar app on your mobile device, only useful if you’re in Copenhagen).

So what is it actually?

It all started with a blog post by Ronni Tino Pedersen in October, about how cool it would be to visualize the local Copenhagen climate and green initiatives as an overlay over the city, using Augmented Reality. There was no clear focus, but people got interested and started to contact him with ideas. And so the plan grew to

  1. take tiny portable environmental measurement devices,
  2. link these to the internet using mobile phones,
  3. have bike messengers drive them around through city traffic,
  4. thus get a real-time cross section of the local environment conditions within the city,
  5. make these data points visible using Mobile Augmented Reality.

This only could happen by the shared effort of a very enthusiastic virtual team. This team consisted of

  • Ronni Tino Pedersen Strategic online communications @ New Media Days at Danish Broadcasting Corporation – initiator and virtual project manager
  • Michael Setton, CEO of who provided the sensors (senspods) and real time measurement set-up
  • Tobias Lau, CEO and founder of developing environmental projects with a social scientific focus
  • Michael Friis, creator of created the site including the Google Maps version
  • Tomas Skovgaard, architect maa made all graphics
  • Peter Vangsbo Madsen, provided specialist advise on air pollution
  • And myself as data integrator and developer of the Layar implementation

The result is impressive, using your mobile phone you can experience what the environmental conditions are in your direct neighborhood, and if you’re lucky this data is measured just a few minutes ago! Although not yet directly related to the big picture of the Copenhagen Conference with its focus on CO2 reduction, this project may evolve so that a future version can even visualize the real-time carbon footprint of traffic in the city.

To quote Ronni Tino Pedersen:

I actually think copenhagenlayer in it’s current state will make a greater impact as part of the COP15 long tail than it could have during the summit. By focusing on the enabling possibilities of street level measurements we can now show some grassroots action that the politicians couldn’t. This is a good story with a fair chance of making it through the journalistic filters.

And so it is indeed.

Encoded uri: layar://cop15

Are you in Copenhagen? Then jump in: open Layer with the Copenhagen Layer

Just keep in mind that this project is in its early stages. The measurements are not very well calibrated yet. Interpretation is always risky and indicative at best, but the trends are real and it is very revealing to see the enormous difference of being surrounded by busy traffic or being amidst a calm city park. There are lots and lots more data available from the senspods than NOx alone, these will be integrated once a solid model for interpretation will be established. And with more sensors and more data points available all kind of aggregated views can be constructed and more reliable conclusions drawn. Heatmaps, rush hour vs. mid day traffic, summer vs winter, the sky is the limit.

This is the start of something great!

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