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AIR: Area's Immediate Reading
Regine Debatty, 19 Sep 06

0airairair.jpg At Conflux yesterday, Brooke Singer presented Preemptive Media's latest work: AIR [Area's Immediate Reading].

AIR is a portable air monitoring device that explores urban environments for pollution and fossil fuel burning hotspots. I first thought that the devices were a bit bulky, but Brooke Singer explained to me that air has to circulate inside it so the openings have to be quite wide. Besides, the size and shape of the device makes it look like a viewmaster. AIR is light enough to be carried easily at hip level or around the neck and taken around for people or "carriers" to see in real-time the pollutant levels in their neighborhood, as well as measurements from the other AIR devices in the network.

The devices are equipped with a sensor that contains a gas sensing chip that detects carbon monoxide, and another chip that spots nitrogen oxides. An on-board GPS unit and digital compass, combined with a database of known pollution sources -- such as power plants and heavy industries -- allow carriers to see their distance from polluters and other AIR devices.

In addition, the devices regularly transmit data to a central database allowing for real-time data visualization online. "While AIR is designed to be a tool for individuals and groups to self identify pollution sources, it also serves as a platform to discuss energy politics and their impact on environment, health and social groups in specific regions."

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