Engagement Through Exposure

SUMMARY: “Engagement through Exposure” is an effort to make visible, that which is invisible using ubiquitous technology to connect people with their environment.

PROBLEM SPACE: It has been said that we live in an ocean of air — a layer of space filled with fluids not enslaved by gravity, from which rain and hail fall, where clouds, thunder, and lightning form, the dominion of tempests and whirlwinds. From this blanket of atmosphere only 7 1⁄2 miles deep, emerges all of this phenomena –astonishing, life giving, and at times disastrous. The sun’s rays strike the earth on all sides, vapors descend and rise again, and winds flow and transport particles –- acting everywhere and in all directions. To continue the ocean metaphor, it is from here that we bottom-feeders breathe this vital fluid that animates us, and it is also from here that we bottom-feeders pollute. Our Promethean Project to conquer nature has added another type of phenomena to this ocean of air – immense amounts of emissions from manufacturing, refining, smelting, mining, and transport technologies, in addition to an array of noise and signals that enables communication devices. This rapid transformation of the built environment is due to the exponential growth of urbanization and industrialization, forcing cities to grow in both population and sprawl leaving behind a residue made visible through higher rates in asthma, a brown sky, and a general warming of the globe.

The current state of air pollution monitoring throughout the world’s cities, both developed and developing, has been unable to keep up with the speed, force, and sheer power of this Promethean Project. Current monitoring station technology is expensive to purchase and maintain, often situated high on buildings for security, and some stations sample the air only once every three days. With few monitoring stations accounting for such large and growing populations, the data collected provides a poor representation of personal exposure to air pollution. And the data that does exist is often inaccessible and illegible – thus, air pollution remains invisible to a public consciousness. Poorly grasped and inadequately measured, air pollution is largely unmanaged, and is thus self-perpetuating.

SOLUTION: This solution is a combination of tools and strategies, which enable a platform of awareness for the relationship between society and air quality.

The project has the following goals:

1) To make air quality data visible, accessible, and legible,
2) To develop a technology that is low-cost, ubiquitous, and scalable,
3) To empower individuals with a system of accountability that relies on agency in the production of knowledge, and
4) To enable a system that challenges the empiricism of institutional data.

In consideration of the scale, immediacy, and rapid growth of the air pollution problem, the solution was designed to quickly transcend and supplant current systems of monitoring. The solution revolves around a device that enables air quality to be monitored using mobile phone and other ubiquitous networks. The device has the ability to take samples at a variable frequency rate and the sample data can be visualized in real-time for the user. The data can then be collected and stored in a central server, presented with samples from other devices and collated with other data streams. The device can be autonomous or embedded within other technology and currently monitors three of the six criteria pollutants recognized by the EPA. In the case of the device as an autonomous unit, it relies on the proliferation of mobile phone and WIFI networks that have created a platform for complex and ad-hoc mobile sensor networks; in the case of the device as an embedded technology, it has the ability to exploit pre-existing infrastructures for network and power. Thus, both applications for the technology are low-cost and scalable because they do not require expenditure in the development of additional infrastructure. In fact, the capacity to exploit these pre-existing and ubiquitous networks makes possible a global network of citizen powered air pollution monitoring.

Currently a proof-of-concept prototype has been built, successfully tested, and demonstrated. However, to fulfill the goals of “Engage through Exposure” it is necessary to make the technology broadly available to society. Rather than utilizing existing government based systems for gathering and delivering air pollution data, or NGO and non-profit based methods of delivery, we will utilize market channels to deploy the solution. The market place has proven itself a powerful vehicle for delivering goods and ideas across global boundaries, efficiently and in a timely manner. We will insert ourselves in this system by embedding the technology in mobile devices already being dispersed and utilized across the globe. This solution arrives at a time when mobile service providers and manufacturers, in search of higher market-share, are aggressively seeking opportunities to provide valuable content and utility to their users. And with increasing environmental awareness, the public is demanding environmental data in a manner that relates to their own quality of life and well-being. The solution thus appeals to both the demand and supply sides of the mobile market.

To date the solution has been financed by the generous support of the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (CalIT2) with plans to be taken to market through the negotiation with a licensee happening at present time. The intellectual property will be further developed with funds sought from socially conscious investors from a variety of asset classes. In recent years, venture philanthropists and a new breed of enlightened investors have emerged from the climate change discussion. The discussion has given rise to a growing understanding in financial markets that “enlightened” capital, when mobilized, has the potential to change the world for the better while at the same time creating vast amounts of new wealth. In the process, wealth gets redefined and we begin to consider the health of our natural resources as part of the wealth equation. This has tremendous transformative potential for the global economy and the world. We believe that our solution would not only be attractive to this audience, but would be a meaningful participant in this evolutionary process towards increased awareness of our integration into natural systems.

To successfully address multiple audiences, from mobile service providers to the public, from the media to investors, a usable-prototype must be developed and a pilot strategy defined. This proposal addresses this crucial step necessary to ensure the successful transfer of the technology from the lab and into the world.

Our team is composed of the following:
Shannon Spanhake, the Principle Investigator and Inventor of the proposed technology, was recently named Grace Hopper’s “Top 100 Women of the World Innovating Science and Technology”. Her research investigates the transformative potential of technology to enable public discourse by providing access to information through alternate modes of articulation in the production of knowledge. Recently, Spanhake has served as counsel to the both the Dept. of Energy and the Ministry of Health, Housing, and the Environment in the City of Lima, Peru, in addition to co-defining the objectives of the Digital [email protected] initiative with the Infocomm Development Agency of Singapore. Spanhake is a post-doctoral researcher at The California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (CalIT2) with a background in engineering, urban environmental studies, and fine art. She also has comprehensive experience in the non-profit sector, working with various NGOs that focus on environmental/technological/social monitoring, remediation, and projection, and her most recent work is as co-author of a signed ecological agreement between the State of California and the City of Lima, Peru.

Davida Herzl is an emerging social entrepreneur with a diverse background in business, law, politics, philanthropy and the citizen sector. Throughout her career, Davida has been a powerful catalyst for innovation and collaboration. She is Founder and President of NextEarth Foundation, where she brings an entrepreneurial and analytical approach to problems of the environment. Formerly, Davida co-founded The Scripps Foundation for Science & the Environment. She was also Founder and President of TradeWise, a company providing trade services and custom overseas manufacturing for a major retailer. Davida is a member of The Consultant Group, where her clients range from multinational corporations to grassroots non-profit organizations. Her latest work is as a contributing writer to the London Accord; her piece outlines philanthropic investment strategies to accelerate and sustain long-term engagement by financial markets in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Don Kimball, Principle Development Engineer at CalIT2, is perhaps a living symbol of the changing face of the telcom industry. Kimball began his research in high-efficiency, high-power amplifiers related to wide-band CDMA, CDMA2000, and GSM/edge at Qualcomm. He then moved to Ericsson where he expanded his research to include electromagnetic compatibility, safety, wireless physical interfaces, and wired physical interfaces, in addition to assisting in the design recommendations and re-interpretion of existing FCC regulations to make them applicable to CMDA. Kimball will lead the technical team of researchers developing the project.

Strategic partners include CalIT2, UCSD, The Blacksmith Institute, the California Air Resources Board, Sony Ericsson, The Next Earth Foundation.