live / 2014

Help build a Realtime Environmental Sensor Network

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Safecast

We have a prototype network up and running in Fukushima Japan now, want to launch full network in Los Angeles.


Please describe yourself.

Solo actor (just us on this project!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Does your project impact Los Angeles County?

Yes (benefits a region of LA County)

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Started in response to the Fukushima meltdown in 2011 - In 3 years Safecast has built the most trusted citizen monitoring network for radiation data in the world, with the largest open data set ever. Our network of mobile sensors is tried and tested, and we’re now building out a static realtime network and adding other environmental data to that - air quality, weather, etc. We have a prototype network up and running now, but would love to deploy a full network in Los Angeles as the first US initiative.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Finalize the production version of our sensors, secure locations then purchase, build and deploy sensors around Los Angeles.

How will your idea/project help make LA the healthiest place to LIVE today? In 2050?

With our radiation data we changed the established method of reporting data as huge averages to giving pinpoint data down to a specific GPS location, giving people the very granular data they needed and were unable to get anywhere else. We’re hoping to do the same thing for air quality and other environmental data so right now Angelenos can get very vague data - air in LA is OK today, air in LA is bad today - etc. Our sensors and network will change that and tell people exactly what is different street to street, moment to moment. Imagine being able to plan a run or bike ride specifically down streets with better air quality at the least polluted times of the day. Imagine being able to pinpoint pollution sources and make changes to correct these problems at the source.

Whom will your project benefit?

Individuals who are interested in their environment, researchers who need concrete data for their work, and policy/government who currently have limited data with which to make decisions.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

For Los Angeles we won’t need any partners to deploy this.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Live” metrics?

  • Exposure to air toxins
  • Acres and miles of polluted waterways

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

By giving people the best data about their environment making changes for the better of the entire region becomes easy.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

If we can deploy enough sensors to collect relevant data, if the data we collect is useful to others, if people make decisions based on our data.

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

With Radiation monitoring in Japan we learned first hand that any data is better than no data and giving people the power to collect data empowers them in ways they never imagined. We also learned the value of lean and agile development -rather than making plans for 5 years from now we decide what we can do that will be most impactful today.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Our prototype network is up and running currently, if we had confirmed funding for development of the production sensors we could put that into action. Our track record shows how fast we can move and what we can pull off, so it’s really just a matter of getting the sensors in hand and putting them out in the world.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

We thought volunteers would be our biggest problem, but we have more volunteers and offers to help and house sensors than we know what do to do with. Our problems have consistently been getting enough hardware out to people fast enough.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)