Radu Motisan has been building a global environmental surveillance network which first monitored radiation levels, and since has added the ability to measure air quality. He believes that people need to be more aware of the environment around them in a similar way that society has awakened to issues about personal fitness and health. We can’t do this without a simple and reliable way to measure the environment.
He discussed the project at length during his presentation at the 2015 Hackaday SuperConference. Watch that talk in the video below, then join us after the break for more details on the hardware and infrastructure that collects and presents the data publicly.
Beginning with uRADMonitor
The uRADMonitor was the original hardware which Radu used to develop the network. To the user these are simple devices that need only be plugged into Ethernet and power in order to function. They then enumerate on the network and begin phoning home with background radiation measurements.
With the known location of each node, this data is graphed over time and made available on the website. Radu did a lot of work to grow the number of nodes in the wild, and both the concept and execution were recognized with a place in the semifinals of the 2014 Hackaday Prize.
Growing to Measure More
With a proven data network and many nodes already in the field, Radu started looking for ways to improve the hardware. His goal was to leverage the data network with better nodes that are portable, position aware, and with an increased number of sensors. Portability is handled by adding a rechargeable battery and WiFi to replace the hardwired Ethernet connection. The radiation sensor from the previous edition of the hardware is joined by an air particulate sensor, as well as a CO2 and VOC sensor. The new model also includes a small touchscreen which provides an on-device user interface that is new to the system. The work was recognized as both a finalists in the 2015 Hackaday Prize and a finalist for Best Product.
Radu shares a couple of very interesting stories about the data collected by his hardware. The addition of particulate, CO2, and VOC sensors were an immediate success. Even in his relatively small city of 300,000 people, the hardware recorded clear pollution changes which correlated with heightened traffic patterns.
On the radiation side of things he noticed a spike in one node located in the United States. His first thought was that there may have been a malfunction. But when inquiring with the node’s owner he found that was not the case. The owner’s daughter had been conducting school experiments using depleted uranium and the sensitive equipment registered a higher background radiation level due to the proximity of these samples. Along similar lines, Radu has noticed that turning on the equipment immediately after it has been on an airplane registers a spike in radiation from more cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere.
Perhaps most intriguing is his recollection of a sensor he built and strapped to the outside of his car. Driving around his country he detected several big radiation spikes. This data has been withheld from the reporting network. He believes he might have detected areas in his country rich in uranium. This data may have something to do with the nation’s natural resource which is why it has been held back. Other than this, all data being reported is available and can be viewed on his website.