Don’t hold your breath: Tiny PocketLab sensor tells you when air quality is poor

Whether it’s citizen journalists using tools like Twitter or large-scale medical studies courtesy of Apple’s ResearchKit technology, we live in an age where it’s possible to gather useful information from massive populations of people at once. That’s something that science-oriented wireless sensor company PocketLab is tapping into with its latest project. The goal? To give everyone the tools necessary to accumulate ultra-localized information about the effects of climate change and pollution.

With that not-exactly-modest ambition in mind, it has launched a new device called the PocketLab Air on Kickstarter. PocketLab Air is a state-of-the-art multi-sensor that connects to your mobile device or computer to give you an accurate reading on a whole range of metrics for whichever area you’re in. These include carbon dioxide and ozone levels, particulate matter, temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, altitude, dew point, heat index, and light intensity — all of which you can measure with your personal pocket-sized device, and then (if you wish) share to create a crowdsourced information map.

“The exciting thing about PocketLab Air is not just the sensor itself, but the ability to collaborate on global climate and air quality experiments,” Robert Douthitt, PocketLab’s director of education research and community engagement, told Digital Trends. “We are calling these PocketLab Missions. Users can activate PocketLab Mission Mode from the PocketLab app, and either accept Mission Objectives from other PocketLab Air users or create their own Mission Objectives to request data from others. Users can then upload their collected data, tagged with their geo-location, to participate in the PocketLab Mission and collaborate with others on climate and air quality experiments.”

pocketlab air pollution tracking prototypes 2

Douthitt imagines scenarios such as high school environmental science classes using the sensors to carry out collaborative research on the air quality during pickup and drop-off times — perhaps opening up questions about whether schools should consider creating a “no-idling zone” to protect the health of their students.

Previous PocketLab sensors are used by teachers and students in thousands of classrooms all across the world,” said Douthitt. “But they are also used by professional engineers, citizen scientists, geeky parents who want to inspire their kids, and anyone with a curious mind.”

If you consider yourself among the curious, you can currently pre-order a PocketLab Air kit on Kickstarter, where prices start at $198. Shipping is set to take place in October 2018.