Can Pervasive Computing help Citizen Science?

Pervasive 2012 Conference, Newcastle

According to Cambridge Dictionary, pervasive means “present or noticeable in every part of a thing or place”. In Pervasive Computing, everyday objects are combined with sensors and microprocessors to enable them exchange information. The goal of pervasive computing is the creation of an environment where devices are always connected and available to the user.

Pervasive 2012, 10th International Conference

Pervasive 2012, one of the most interesting and important, annual conferences in the field of Pervasive Computing was held this year in Newcastle. Pervasive is a conference where academics from all over the world present their recent findings in the architecture, design, implementation, and evaluation of pervasive computing and off course ExCiteS was there. Of special interest were the talks on Activity Capturing, Urban Mobility and Computing, Home and Energy, HCI, Development Tools & Devices, Indoor Location and Positioning, Social Computing and Games, Privacy and Public Displays and Services.

Can Pervasive Computing combine with Citizen Science? As many talks and presentations showed, Pervasive Computing can assist Citizen Science in engaging the public and providing tools and sensors for creating and deploying projects.

One of the most important and difficult parts, at the early stages of every citizen science project, is the public engagement and how to encourage citizens participate.  In the paper “From School Food to Skate Parks in a few Clicks: Using Public Displays to Bootstrap Civic Engagement of the Youngthe authors examined the use of Public Displays and Social Networks to engage citizens and especially young people in order to give feedback on municipal issues.

Pervasive Computing can provide sensors, tools and technologies that could help the creation of Citizen Science projects. The authors of .NET Gadgeteer: A Platform for Custom Devices presented a new platform that can be used to design and create custom electronic devices for various scenarios. The platform is equivalent to Arduino but according to its designers, offers much more options and can be used to create devices in less time.

The papers “Mimic Sensors: Battery-shaped Sensor Node for Detecting Electrical Events of Handheld Devices” and “Recognizing Handheld Electrical Device Usage with Hand-worn Coil of Wire” presented sensors that could recognize the use of electrical devices such as digital cameras, electric toothbrushes or hair dryers by sensing the electrical current passing through the device and by sensing magnetic fields emitted by the devices, respectively.

Finally, in “Urban Traffic Modelling and Prediction using Large Scale Taxi GPS Traces”, the authors presented a method to predict traffic by equipping taxis with GPS trackers and analyzing the information they gather.

Apart from being a very interesting and well organized conference, Pervasive 2012 showed us that Pervasive Computing could also be really helpful in our vision for Extreme Citizen Science by engaging the public and providing tools and applications.




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