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Improving Air Quality & Health Outcomes With Bluetooth Monitoring Network

Boston, MA

A city wide network of Bluetooth enabled data monitoring devices called CitySense, including both mobile (using vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians) and fixed (using light poles) were used to monitor and communicate various air pollution particulate and gaseous contaminates at 100 locations throughout the Cambridge and Longwood Medical area in MA.

Topics Covered

Air Quality, Health, Noise
Pedestrian & Bicycle Safety
Mobility & Access


Initial: 2 Million USD



Federal grants

Project Status

Operational since 2007

Problem Addressed

Air quality was decreasing as transportation increased in a dense urban environment. The community was looking to gain valuable data on the impact of these airborne pollutants on community public to inform transportation planning decisions in future.

Solutions Used

CitySense's first task was to monitor air pollution transport in a dense urban environment for Majid Ezzati, associate professor of international health in the Harvard School of Public Health.

Ezzati hoped to gain valuable data on airborne pollutants' public health impact. Since data was collected from multiple sources across the city, the sensors provided a more complete picture of environmental data than current data collected locally from one central monitor. CitySense, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, was the first of its kind, maintaining an open-source platform, meaning it is accessible to researchers worldwide for everything from gathering meteorological data to monitoring traffic conditions and noise pollution - meaning anyone with a computer and an internet connection, from "an atmospheric science researcher in Tulsa or a 10th grade high school teacher in San Francisco would only have to design an experiment and sign up for a time slot to run it on CitySense" said Matt Welsh, assistant professor of computer science in Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. To support the use of this system, CHANGE, along with collaborators from Harvard University, developed a data collection and synthesis system that was able to remotely combine that real-time air pollution with GPS data from multiple sensors to create data that helped inform decision makers about how changes in transportation infrastructure would impact air quality, and provided data to support future large-scale health studies.

Who Should Consider

Dense urban communities looking to make transportation plans that are informed by data.

Last Updated

Jan 25th, 2018
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