Thursday, 28 July 2016

Sharing space, power and network connectivity for science

There are already several projects that let you donate your spare computing cycles (and power and network connectivity) to science, notably the SETI@home and Folding@home projects. But what other ways can citizens support science passively from their homes?

An interesting expansion of this would be for citizens to host networked sensors at their homes that collect data from scientific research. There are several possibilities:

  • weather - air temperature, air pressure, rainfall, humidity, light sensors, wind speed sensors, etc
  • air quality - already done, see Air Quality Egg, TZOA, AirBeamLapka PEM, Clarity, CleanSpace
  • telescope - it is well within the capabilities of current technology to have an automated telescope that scans the skies capturing data with digital sensors and relaying that information to scientists via the internet. Potentially the telescope could be directed remotely, for example to track a comet.
  • biodiversity monitoring - cameras (both visible light and infrared), combined with image recognition technology could potentially be deployed to identify and count wildlife, particularly birds, and ideally indicator species
  • traffic sensor - a camera combined with image recognition technology that monitors the traffic in the road outside the house
  • soil moisture / water table level - this sensor would need to be dug into the ground, and would provide data on drought conditions and the risk of flooding
The key attributes of these systems is that they would be fully automated. All the citizen would need to do would be to purchase the device, site it somewhere appropriate (e.g. telescope on the roof) connect it to a power source and connect it to their internet connection.

Perhaps slightly more invasive to privacy, but nonetheless useful for psychological and sociological researchers, would be to install sensors to monitor human behavior in the house. However, such data collection is more closely linked to the individual that the location, and is already to a large extent covered by the quantified self movement (albeit not necessarily with the data shared with scientists).

No comments: