The Clean Air Council Climate Tracker Will Track Pollution in Real Time - Generocity Philly

Aug. 8, 2014 12:11 pm

The Clean Air Council Climate Tracker Will Track Pollution in Real Time

Image of the Climate Tracker prototype attached to a bike via @ClimateTracker on Twitter What’s the value of a tree in Philadelphia? How much pollution does it help to mitigate? The Clean Air Council Climate Tracker may soon be able to provide an answer. The Clean Air Council Climate Tracker will create a city-wide network of sensors […]

Image of the Climate Tracker prototype attached to a bike via @ClimateTracker on Twitter


What’s the value of a tree in Philadelphia? How much pollution does it help to mitigate? The Clean Air Council Climate Tracker may soon be able to provide an answer.

The Clean Air Council Climate Tracker will create a city-wide network of sensors (placed on buses) to gather data on micro-climate and pollution throughout the city. The data will then be made public and available to researchers, app developers, and others in order to study the effects of climate change and publicize heat and pollution data in real time.

“It’s an open source device that will monitor temperature and pollution throughout the city,”  said Lead Developer Joshua Meyer. “The data that comes from [the sensors] will be open data.”

Meyer is also the Founder and Director of Technology at PekaSys, Inc, a sustainable technology developer based in Philadelphia.

One of the goals of the project is to have the Climate Tracker sensor data integrated with OpenTreeMap (a crowdsourced tree inventory) to study the effect trees have on pollution. Meyer said his goal is to put a dollar value on a tree in terms of the work it does mitigating pollution.

“The end goal is something I started working on in college and nobody ever has a good answer for, ‘what’s the value of a tree in the city?'” said Meyer.

The team is working to develop a set of prototypes to be tested on bicycles in a pilot phase. The goal is to eventually have the sensors placed on buses throughout the city. If the pilot run on bikes is successful, the team will approach SEPTA and request that the devices be fastened to buses, according to Barbara Donnini, one of the Code for Philly participants working on the project.

Helping a Student Receive College Credit

Donnini began working on the project to receive independent study credit from Montgomery County Community College to learn computer programming.

“I wanted to get real world experience with coding,” Donnini said, adding that in a field like computer science, it’s so important to have real-world experience and have projects to show potential employers. In the future, Donnini said she’ll continue to participate in open data projects.

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In addition, Donnini’s professor, Kendall Martin, would like to expand the idea for partnerships with Code for America and other organizations in the city in the future as well, such as NextFab, for independent study opportunities.

“It would open the world in many ways for our students,” Martin said in an email. “So we are grateful to [Donnini] for trail-blazing here! I think her work will show all our students new possibilities to consider in their education.”

Find out more about the Climate Tracker project here, and read Donnini’s blog documenting her journey here.

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