Personal Pollution Monitoring: Mobile Real-Time Air-Quality in Daily Life

Elizabeth Bales, Nima Nikzad, Celal Ziftci, Nichole Quick, Bill Griswold and Kevin Patrick
April 18, 2014

Poor air quality is a growing global health concern that impacts millions of people worldwide. Although we are beginning to understand the health impacts of air pollution, it remains a challenge to provide people with the information they need to be able to make health-conscious choices. The CitiSense system gives individuals the real-time tools they need to be able to identify when and where they are exposed to poor air. We present the results of a qualitative study regarding a 4-week “in the wild” deployment of the CitiSense air-quality sensor and system. We focus on how the 16 participants responded to their new-found information about their environment, how they shared information, and what kinds of actions were enabled by having access to real-time air-quality data. Quantitative data gathered through the course of the study frames participant responses by showing what levels of pollution were experienced and what activities heightened exposure. We found that CitiSense’s real-time graphical displays and everywhere monitoring provided a critical bridge between data and experience, enabling sophisticated in-the-world sensemaking and sharing with those nearby. This in turn affected behavior and attitudes, leading to shifts in how users reasoned about their world, and how they assessed their personal choices and impact.

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