• 04.24.12

The Air Quality Egg Will Let You Know Exactly What You’re Breathing

This adorable little sensor might yield less than adorable results: The air around you can be quite bad for you. Now you can know precisely how bad.

It’s a good thing that the government monitors air pollution in your neighborhood, keeping tabs on the toxins you’re breathing in. Oh wait, it’s not. In fact, federal, state, and local agencies rely on just 3,000 “ambient air and deposition monitoring networks” to monitor major pollutants in all of North America (PDF). That’s approximately one for every 1,200 square miles (and you’re pretty much out of luck if you live in Nevada).


But a new sensor network is being built–one adorable little DIY egg at a time. Meet the Air Quality Egg, a system hatched to create a network of open-source sensors and a data platform that will turn everyone into an atmospheric scientist (or at least a data collector).

“The Air Quality Egg is a sensor system designed to allow anyone to collect very high-resolution readings of NO2 and CO concentrations outside of their home,” according to the project’s Kickstarter campaign which has collected three times more than their $39,000 goal. “Each Egg that comes online contributes data that, in aggregate, will provide what is essentially an ‘air quality API.'”

That API, or data feed, will yield an international stream of data about concentrations of air pollution such as nitrous oxide (a precursor to ozone) and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the primary driver of climate change. A second set of sensors can also measure ozone (O3), volatile organic compounds, radiation, and particulates.

It works by positioning small electronic sensors outside your home which send regular radio signals to the egg-shaped base station inside. The data is relayed to open data service Pachube, which allows you to check out your local atmospheric profile, generate tweets and SMS alerts for certain pollutants and unleash a global coder community on an unprecedented new dataset.

The whole system–open-source hardware and software—can be ordered fully assembled ($100) or as a kit ($70) for the DIY crowd. So the next time someone asks you about the weather, you can tell them more than they wanted to know.

About the author

Michael is a science journalist and co-founder of Publet: a platform to build digital publications that work on every device with analytics that drive the bottom line. He writes for FastCompany, The Economist, Foreign Policy and others on science, economics, and the environment.