Air Visibility Monitoring

Air Visibility Monitoring
Image: Courtesy of USC Robotic Embedded Systems Lab

Airborne particulate matter is a serious threat to both our health and the environment, say the researchers behind the Air Visibility Monitoring project. It is also the primary cause for visibility degradation in urban metropolitan areas. University of Southern California researchers are working towards an optical technique to measure air visibility (and hence an estimate of some kinds of air pollution) using cameras and other sensors available on smartphones.
The idea is that using a simple application for the Android phone, citizen scientists take pictures of the sky. Each picture is tagged with location, orientation and time data and transferred to a backend server. Visibility is estimated by first calibrating these image radiometrically and then comparing the intensity with an established model of sky luminance.
Citizen scientists with an Android smartphone can help USC researchers improve their app by contributing data.

Project Details

  • PRINCIPAL SCIENTIST: Gaurav Sukhatme, Professor and Director
  • SCIENTIST AFFILIATION: USC Robotic Embedded Systems Lab
  • DATES: Ongoing
  • PROJECT TYPE: Fieldwork
  • COST: Free
  • GRADE LEVEL: All Ages

    Download the Air Visibility Monitoring app from USC’s mobile sensing site.

See more projects in FreeFieldworkAll Ages.

What Is Citizen Science?

Research often involves teams of scientists collaborating across continents. Now, using the power of the Internet, non-specialists are participating, too. Citizen Science falls into many categories. A pioneering project was SETI@Home, which has harnessed the idle computing time of millions of participants in the search for extraterrestrial life. Citizen scientists also act as volunteer classifiers of heavenly objects, such as in Galaxy Zoo. They make observations of the natural world, as in The Great Sunflower Project. And they even solve puzzles to design proteins, such as FoldIt. We'll add projects regularly—and please tell us about others you like as well.

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