This portable device takes air monitoring into its own hands

Designed by the Brooklyn-based HabitatMap team, AirBeam is a portable, palm-sized system for mapping, graphing and crowdsourcing air pollution in real-time as you make your way around city streets. While the wearable instrument may not purify the air, it does enable you to monitor what you are breathing in, thereby increasing your awareness of the budding issue. As its creators note, pollution is among the leading causes of chronic illnesses as well as contributor to a number of terminal illnesses.


In an effort to share and improve the atmosphere, the device is powered by an Atmel ATmega32U4 and based on the Arduino Leonardo bootloader. AirBeam uses a light scattering method to take regular measurements of fine particular matter (also known as PM2.5), convert the data into a more digestible form and route it to its companion smartphone app via Bluetooth. PM2.5 is just one of the six air pollutants the EPA regulates.

Since being founded in 2011, the AirCasting team has been working diligently to create a wearable device that would not only increase the amount of data collected, but improve the accuracy as well. Up until its Kickstarter campaign, HabitatMap has used a series of hacked-together third-party devices to measure air quality.


The Android app then maps and logs the data in real-time. Those wishing to share their findings can also add to HabitatMap’s crowdsourced map of air quality readings, which indicates where PM2.5 concentrations are the highest and lowest.


AirBeam is just one component of the open-source AirCasting platform — which consists of the mobile app, online platform and the megaAVR embedded wearable — enabling so-called AirCasters to individually and accurately collect and broadcast their surrounding air quality data. As the team points out, at its core, AirCasting is a DIY air monitoring movement that informs and empowers citizen scientists to take “matters into their own hands.” After all, the more cognizant we are about the air we breathe in, the better!

Here’s a surprise: The air in and around the New York City subway is downright disgusting. In fact, “You’re breathing in diesel exhaust, steel particles, sulfur dioxide. It’s well above the EPA’s standard,” HabitatMap Founder Michael Heimbinder tells Wired


The mobile app has been well-received, having already been downloaded over 10,000 times with thousands of active changemakers currently using the AirCasting platform. Pledges garnered through the Kickstarter will further enable HabitatMap to run more programs at schools and in communities and do so cheaper, faster, and with more devices.

This initiative is just a part of an ever-evolving, emerging trend focused on gathering ambient data throughout today’s urban space. While a number of cities are embedded sensors and other technologies to attain information on noise levels and air quality, as Wired points out, what sets AirBeam apart is the concept that everyday citizens can contribute to this rise in data themselves.

Interested in learning more? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, which successfully completed its funding round moments ago.


5 thoughts on “This portable device takes air monitoring into its own hands

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