Tag Archives: Air Quality

BeMap lets you pick the least polluted way to work

This device features GPS for tracking, a lamp for visibility and sensors for measuring pollution along your cycling route.

Most folks typically like commute to work everyday either by car or mass transit. Not only do these vehicles create congestion on the roads, they’re often times costly and not always flexible to one’s schedule. And while cycling is certainly an alternative mode of transportation, many people don’t feel confident riding to work in non-bike-friendly cities. This is something that one team of microengineers have set out to change with their Arduino-based system.


With hopes of encouraging more people to bike to work and improving everyone’s general well-being, four EPFL students have developed an innovative handlebar device with an air pollution gauge and headlight. The system, called BeMap (Bicycle Environmental Mapping), is capable of measuring CO and NO2 levels in the air and transmitting that data to a computer for environmental mapping. These readings can then be crowdsourced online and mapped to help cyclists choose routes with the lowest level of vehicle exhaust and pollution. During any given bike ride, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pollution readings can be taken and then uploaded in real-time over Bluetooth.

Aside from a CO and NO2 sensor, BeMap is embedded with a temperature and humidty sensor along with an Arduino Leonardo (ATmega32U4) that handles communication and data collection. What’s more, the gadget is equipped with GPS for tracking the path followed by a cyclist throughout their commute and combining the sensors’ data to points on the map. There’s also an LED light to enhance nighttime visibility and for keeping you up to date on the current pollution levels.


According to its creators, BeMap is geared towards to specific users: municipalities who could provide the device to users in order to collect specific information about cycling infrastructures’ quality and air pollution, as well as data-loving riders who’d like to analyze their cycling routes. Plus, the students are already in talks with OpenSense — a project designed to measure air quality through mobile monitoring — who has already placed sensors on trams and buses in Zurich and Lausanne, for instance.

“With bicycles, we can go down narrow streets and reach other spots that are off limits to buses. The readings crowdsourced by BeMap will also help cover more ground,” explains Chloe Dickson, a member of the BeMap project team.


In true Maker spirit, BeMap is entirely open source and all of its documentation and 3D-printable files are available online. Although the project was initially devised as part of the iCan competition, the group is considering marketing a commercial-grade unit, which we wouldn’t be surprised to find on Kickstarter in the near future!

1:1 interview with Hackaday Prize finalist Radu Motisan

Did you know that 80% of the 2015 Hackaday Prize finalists are powered by Atmel? With only days left until we learn which project will walk away with this year’s crown, we recently sat down with each of the potential winners to get to know them better. 

Radu Motisan is no stranger to the higher ranks of the Hackaday Prize leaderboard, and rightfully so. Not only in the running for this year’s best product category as well as the ultimate grand prize, the Maker was also named a semi-finalist back in 2014 with his uRADMonitor a web-connected, plug-and-play radiation monitor that tracks beta and gamma emissions around the globe. Piggybacking off of his work thus far, Motisan has decided to take the project one step further by going mobile with the Portable Environmental Monitor. It measures alpha, beta, and gamma radiation, dust, air quality, temperature and pressure using a small, handheld device that uploads data to the Internet over Wi-Fi.


Atmel: What is the Portable Environmental Monitor?

Radu Motisan: The Portable Environmental Monitor with its backend uRADMonitor infrastructure is the next big thing in the IoT: a new pollution tracking platform equipped with top-grade sensors to deliver real-time measurements and notifications to help us protect our health. The readings are mapped to geographical locations, for better understanding of pollution as a phenomenon. As I it see it now, this slowly becomes a new standard for checking environmental quality the very same way we use weather forecasting today.

Atmel: How did you come to the idea for monitor? Moreover, what inspired you to enter the contest with your project?

RM: The idea came from a personal need for uncensored, real environmental data. It was a perfect fit for Hackaday’s call to build something that matters and help the environment at global scale.

Atmel: In line with the Hackaday Prize’s theme, how are you hoping the monitor changes the world? What’s the mission?

RM: The uRADMonitor with the Portable Environmental Monitor unit is an ambitious project, aiming to improve global awareness on pollution, its factors and evolution, and ultimately to increase the quality of life.


Atmel: What’s makes the device so unique? What’s your vision for the next five years? Where do you see the monitor going or what/who would you hope will pick up the project and use it?

RM: It’s different because its open — transparency is important to guarantee the quality of equipment and of the resulting collected data. There was considerable effort to develop both the hardware and software glueing this together and I’m happy the results so far exceeded the expectations with innovative devices. In five years, the project’s name should be already known worldwide with more people using it. It addresses both end users and companies to monitor living spaces, offices but also cities, plants, production centres. The hardware involved is constantly shaping to new ideas that make this solution even better. Next step is providing larger scale monitoring solutions for cities and running a few field tests.

Atmel: As we know, the Maker Movement has opened the door for everyone from hobbyists to tech enthusiasts to hardcare engineers to tinker around. What’s your personal background?

RM: By training, I’m a software engineer. By hobby, I’m a chemist, physicist and electronics amateur. By heart, I am the man that will use the best of his skills to build technology that matters — that has an impact on other people’s lives. Luckily this background allowed venturing into the corners of hardware design and production, with ease.


Atmel: What are some of the core pieces of hardware embedded?

RM: The Portable Environmental Monitor uses an ATmega128 MCU as the brain of its operation, having to handle complex operations like driving sensors, WLAN communication, real-time user GUI on a large touchscreen display, Geiger high voltage circuit, and finally, the power management involving the rechargeable battery and a high efficiency inverter. Then, there is also a BME680 sensor from Bosch Sensortec that does wonders at a very low energy cost.

Atmel: Are there any other hardware projects you’re also building at the moment?

RM: There is the new City Air Quality project, which involves a custom Portable Environmental Monitor hardware but with a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone and air quality sensor, all fixed to the outside of a car, to run the first live tests on pollution and build an experimental environmental heat map. The know-how will be used for a miniaturized version that addresses bicyclists in an effort of reducing pollution in cities. All under a new startup company that I’m working to shape at the moment…

Atmel: We’ve gotta ask… why go with Atmel chips?

RM: Because they are great!

Atmel: What advice would you offer other Makers when getting into hardware and embarking on a new project?

RM: When you build something, finish the job! Don’t just leave endless meters of jumping wires in unfinished tests and breadboards. Instead, think big, design a case for your new gadget, build a prototype and try entering production to test your idea on the real market. Playing is nice, but the real world and solving problems of others, are by far more appealing.


Atmel: You mentioned something about working on launching a startup. What does this entail? Will you perhaps be taking this project to Kickstarter/Indiegogo in the near future?

RM: Yes! The startup is in its early phase, preparing all the documents and local legal requirements. The crowdfunding campaign will happen… in just a few days!

Atmel: And… if you happen to win the grand prize, will you be heading to space or taking the cash?!

RM: My childhood dream was to become an astronaut. As I see it now, this is a one time opportunity, but it also makes it a though question since I am now a more responsible young parent.

Atmel: Anything else you want to tell us and our followers?

RM: Yes. Life is short, and the Hackaday’s “build something that matters” thing is not a cliché, but the very first thing we need to consider every time we wake up in the morning. Make the plan, aim and shoot. There is not time to waste, since there are so many things that can be improved in this world and we are all responsible for that. And those with certain skills have even higher responsibility.

Don’t miss our other interviews with fellow HaD Prize finalists Chris LowOpenBionicsEric William and Eyedrivomatic!

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.