Citizen-powered sensing of the environment

Just out this Monday:

A new paper, “Participatory Sensing: A Citizen-powered Approach to Illuminating the Patterns That Shape our World,” commissioned by the Foresight & Governance Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, outlines how existing technologies in today’s mobile phones and web services enable new approaches to citizen science. The paper presents scenarios for how these techniques might improve environmental protection and personal healthcare…

Central to the concept is that individuals decide what data to collect and the extent to which it is aggregated and shared. The hardware and software are specifically designed for users to have this control.

Funded by the EPA and prepared by the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS) at UCLA, this sounds like an encouraging report. Of course, it’s a long path from this to a publicly-deployed system, and getting that system to prevail over less-open competitors, but having CENS and the Wilson Center pushing for this is a good start.

Oddly, a quick search of this 20-page PDF for the phrase “open source” found no instances. It’s surprising that a report like this could be written without using this term at all. Perhaps it was regarded as too technical; the report appears to be aimed at a non-technical readership. Or perhaps the authors are not assuming that the system should be entirely open source or source-available, in which case there may be an opportunity for us to help get these requirements included in future system descriptions.

Check out the graphics at the top of the Foresight & Governance Project page: that molecular nanotech bearing should look familiar to Foresight members and other nano trackers! —Chris Peterson

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