About this project
If you missed our Kickstarter you can still get an AirBeam. Email us at email@example.com to place an order.
Air pollution is a staggering worldwide problem. Sources estimate that poor air quality costs the United States alone over $78 billion dollars annually. The negative impacts of air pollution rank it among the most serious and widespread human health hazards in the world. Breathing dirty air causes chronic illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis and contributes to terminal illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Unfortunately, despite the very real impacts air pollution has on our every day lives, it often goes unnoticed because it is largely invisible. In addition, because government-run air quality monitoring networks are sparse, publicly available air quality measurements don’t translate into an accurate assessment of personal exposure. The answer? Low-cost, portable air quality instruments. This is where YOU, AirCasting, and the AirBeam come in.
Taking Matter(s) Into Our Own Hands
AirCasting is an open-source platform comprised of wearable devices and digital media that enables AirCasters (that’s you!) to independently and accurately collect and broadcast air quality data. But at its core, AirCasting is a DIY air monitoring movement that uses information about local environments to inform, educate, share, and ultimately improve health in communities around the world.
The AirCasting platform was built as an open-source, end-to-end solution for collecting, displaying, and sharing health and environmental data using your smartphone. The platform consists of wearable sensors that detect changes in your environment and physiology, including a palm-sized air quality monitor called the AirBeam, the AirCasting Android app, the AirCasting crowdmapping website, and wearable LED accessories. By documenting and leveraging health and environmental data to inform personal decision-making and public policy, the AirCasting platform empowers citizen scientists and changemakers like you and me to take matters into our own hands.
Currently, the AirCasting platform connects a series of wearable devices to a network, notably an Arduino-powered, portable, palm-sized air quality monitor called the AirBeam. The AirBeam measures fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5. You may be saying to yourself, “Why is this important?” Answer: The US Environmental Protection Agency monitors and regulates six criteria air pollutants, one of which is PM2.5, and the EPA’s measurements indicate that PM2.5 levels pose a substantial health risk in cities across the country.
PM2.5, describes the size of the particles measured, particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter. These tiny particles, 30 of which could fit across the width of a human hair, are a huge problem all around the world. Sources of PM2.5 include diesel cars and trucks, coal burning power plants, forest fires, and construction activities. Because PM2.5 particles are so small, they are able to penetrate deep into our lungs and even pass into our bloodstream causing both short-term affects, like asthma attacks, and long-term affects, like cancer and heart disease.
The AirBeam uses a light scattering method to measure PM2.5. Air is drawn through a sensing chamber wherein light from an LED bulb scatters off particles in the airstream. This light scatter is registered by a detector and converted into a measurement that estimates the number of particles in the air. Via Bluetooth, these measurements are communicated approximately once a second to the AirCasting Android app, which maps and graphs the data in real time on your smartphone. At the end of each AirCasting session, the collected data is sent to the AirCasting website, where the data is crowdsourced with data from other AirCasters to generate heat maps indicating where PM2.5 concentrations are highest and lowest. As an open-source platform, modifying our components to take other measurements and or transmit the data to other websites or apps is easy and encouraged. We’ve even included an expansion port on the AirBeam to make adding sensors as simple as can be.
Wait, There's More
Staring at a screen can be a drag (and may lead to being run over while walking or biking!) so we developed the LiteBeam to communicate the AirBeam measurements using LEDs. The LiteBeam uses a IOIO microcontroller connected to the AirCasting app over Bluetooth to illuminate LEDs in response to the sensor measurements received by the AirCasting app: green for low intensity, then yellow, then orange, and red for high intensity. We'll be publishing an Instructable for the LiteBeam after we reach our crowdfunding goal.
HabitatMap worked with a community of scientists, educators, developers, and other non-profits to design a network of wearable devices and digital media that can record and visualize health and environmental data. After three years of research and development and seven prototypes, we are finally at the point where the technology is mature enough to successfully scale up nationally and internationally.
To date, the AirCasting app has been downloaded over 10,000 times and there are thousands of active changemakers currently using the AirCasting platform, including community-based organizations, schools, research institutions, and citizen scientists interested in health and environmental monitoring, electrical & mechanical engineering, design, rapid prototyping, and open source code.
Makers & Citizen Scientists
The majority of the people using AirCasting built their own monitors. By funding this campaign, backers will enable HabitatMap to mass-produce devices and therefore get them into the hands of the people that want them.
We have already worked directly with high schoolers and community based organizations to build air quality monitors and put them to use. By meeting our funding target and bringing down the cost of producing AirBeams, we will be able to meet one of our primary goals: expanding the reach of our AirCasting Youth program. Backers are encouraged to get their own copy of the AirCasting youth curriculum and set up their own programs.
Funds raised from Kickstarter, will enable HabitatMap, the non-profit that manages the AirCasting platform, to run more programs at schools and in communities and do so cheaper, faster, and with more devices. The good news is the AirBeams have already been designed and many already produced. Now, we just need to scale production, manufacture more AirBeams and get them into more hands. Meaning our movement grows…. and citizen scientists, schools, makers, and YOU will be participating to help make a difference.
Moving to Mass Production
In order to empower changemaking on a larger scale, we need to first scale up AirBeam production. As a backer receiving an AirBeam, you will be helping to lower the costs of producing the AirBeam, enabling us to reach more students. Getting to scale would push the cost of making an AirBeam from $800 down to $200 and reduce assembly time from 7 hours to 7 minutes. We are aiming for an initial goal of $50,000 to pay for the enclosure molds, bring down costs through bulk orders, and cover FCC certification. HabitatMap is a non-profit organization. This means that any money raised over and above our cost to produce, ship, and provide customer service for the AirBeams will be used to improve the AirCasting app and website (and if we can stretch the goal further, we aim to create an AirCasting iPhone App and also further develop the LiteBeam).
But this Kickstarter campaign is as much about finding AirCasters to join our movement, as it is about raising funds. We are seeking…
Instrument Makers interested in developing AirCasting compatible sensor packages for new environmental and physiological sensing applications. It's simple to connect your own custom-designed sensor package to the AirCasting app to display and record measurements in real-time.
Educators & Community Leaders interested in applying science, technology, engineering, art & design, and mathematics to address urgent environmental issues where they live. Schools and community organizations are the vital link between our technology and its application to real world problems.
Open Source Coders to push the limits of what’s possible with the AirCasting platform - gamify, add social networking layers, improve instrument performance & communications - the possibilities are truly endless. Because sharing information freely empowers communities to develop their own best solutions, everything we do, from hardware to software, is open source.
Citizen Scientists from around the world to take measurements, contribute to the crowdmap, and make change! We live in a world where expert knowledge is no longer the exclusive province of experts, where citizens, armed with affordable and accessible instruments, can make unprecedented contributions to scientific understanding.
The AirCasting platform is managed by HabitatMap, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to raising awareness about the impact the environment has on human health, and not by a private company. Meaning that funds raised in excess of the cost to produce and ship the AirBeams and provide customer service will not go into our pockets. Excess funds will go toward making software improvements and potentially toward the development of an iPhone version of our app.
Our network (including the hardware) exists. So if you buy into AirCasting you will be getting what we say you will be getting and you will be getting it on time. Other air quality monitors out there can’t say the same thing. In addition, we have already identified a DIY electronics retailer, Jaycon Systems, who we’ve partnered with to handle the logistics of manufacturing and assembling AirBeams and shipping orders. We intend to immediately go into production following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Tested & Verified
Our work with schools and community based organizations emphasizes the "science" behind citizen science. Our experience has shown that when AirCasters know how a measurement is made they feel empowered: they are better able to share and explain their findings to others and use that information to critically evaluate the quality of the data being collected. This approach also builds trust between communities, regulators, and policy makers. Plus, science is fun! For more on the science behind the AirBeam visit our blog, TakingSpace, where we've posted information regarding the technical specifications, operation, and performance of the AirBeam.
Everything we do is open source because we believe in the power of community to make change. The AirCasting app and website code is on GitHub as is the AirBeam firmware and the electronic schematics for the AirBeam. The STL files for 3D printing the AirBeam & LiteBeam enclosures can be downloaded from Shapeways. Now the only question is… what will you build?
Michael Heimbinder : AirBeam & AirCasting Lead Developer
Michael is the Founder & Executive Director of HabitatMap. HabitatMap's community mapping and social networking platforms, HabitatMap.org and AirCasting.org, are a direct testament to Michael’s dedication to creating online platforms that facilitate community organizing for improved quality of life. Since launching HabitatMap in 2006 he has worked with dozens of schools and community based organizations to create planning and advocacy maps that publicize the issues they care about most.
Raymond Yap : AirBeam Prototyping Engineer
Raymond Yap has a degree in Computer Engineering Technology from the New York City College of Technology and is currently enrolled as a Computer Engineering graduate student at Manhattan College. His research interests include the design of electrical control systems and the implementation of software programming in microcontrollers.
Chris Cosentino : AirBeam & LiteBeam Mechanical Engineer
Chris has been a product designer for 20 years and has provided his expertise to internationally recognized design firms. He currently runs Cosentino Engineering, an engineering consultancy in Jersey City that has a fully equipped CNC and manual machine shop and electronics lab. He can provide concept to production design for everything from consumer products to medical devices to performance motorcycles.
Garrett Berg : AirBeam Electrical Engineer
Garrett is an independent consulting engineer who runs his own LLC, Cloudform Design. He is committed to designing open source hardware and offers discounted services for companies interested in open sourcing their products. You can also catch him blogging at Element 14.
There are dozens of other people who contributed time and effort to making the AirBeam and AirCasting a reality. In particular, we'd like to thank Marcin Kostrzewa and the Lunar Logic team for their work on the AirCasting software, Tim Dye for advising on data quality, Thomas Deckert for designing an early version of the AirBeam enclosure, Dave Young, Guan Yang, and JB Kim for consulting on the AirBeam PCB design, Alex Besser for his work characterizing AirBeam performance, Aimee Heimbinder and her team at Consequence of Innovation for being the design and strategy masterminds behind our crowdfunding effort, Daniel Terna for shooting and editing our video, Dr. George Thurston and Dr. Carlos Restrepo for advising and collaborating, and Iem Heng, who is gone but not forgotten, for his work prototyping AirCasting hardware.
Thank you funders and partners! The AirCasting platform and the AirBeam would not have been possible without the generous support of our funders and the partnerships they’ve enabled. Support for AirCasting and the AirBeam have been provided by: Knight Foundation through a partnership between HabitatMap and Sonoma Technology; the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation through a partnership between HabitatMap and Newtown Creek Alliance and HabitatMap and UPROSE; the EPA through a partnership between HabitatMap and Sustainable South Bronx; the Hive Digital Media Learning Fund of the New York Community Trust through a partnership between HabitatMap and New York Hall of Science; the Mozilla Hive NYC Learning Network through a partnership between HabitatMap, Parsons the New School for Design, and New York Hall of Science; NIEHS, EPA, and HHS through a partnership between HabitatMap and researchers and engineers from New York University and Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE lab; New York State Pollution Prevention Institute through a partnership between HabitatMap and New York Hall of Science; the Grey Area Arts Foundation through a partnership between HabitatMap, Sonoma Technology, and AethLabs; and Google Earth Outreach.
Risks and challenges
We’ve done our homework to make sure that everything proceeds according to plan. As a non-profit organization, we’ve been fortunate to receive foundation funding and in-kind support, which has allowed us to get the AirBeam ready for manufacture and subsidized the cost of production. Don’t believe us, see for yourself. The AirBeam PCB schematics and supporting documentation are available on GitHub and the STL files for the AirBeam and LiteBeam enclosures are available at Shapeways. In addition, we’ve partnered with Jaycon systems - an experienced DIY electronics engineering outfit and retailer - to manufacture, package, and ship the AirBeams. At the end of our successful 30-day Kickstarter campaign, we will immediately begin executing our manufacturing game plan and will ship on time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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