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#AirHack Day 2 and Outcomes

The second day of #AirHack saw a bit more rain and a bit less sunshine, but our hackers were undeterred. With a more casual start on the Saturday, some participants spent the morning refining their project from home or, as was the case for team Thunderclap, used the time to gather fresh data and test physical prototypes.

James Tate from the University of Leeds was now armed with an air quality gadget of his own, which counted the number of really small particles in the air. The device was mounted with a Go Pro camera (so they could visually see and verify what might cause a spike in particles, i.e. a bus driving past) and James also used a sound recording app on his mobile phone that allowed him to measure decibels, etc. He improvised a windshield, to help reduce the background noise from the inclement weather. He used the morning to track his journey to ODI Leeds but still needed to go out and test some more.

Meanwhile, the rest of the hardy hackers continued with their prototypes or concepts. One project had lost all but one of it's entire team from the day before, so a brave group took up the mantle to salvage it and have at least something to show for it by the end of the day. iWalk, which was very ambitious in it's premise/promise, was too big to create in a single hackathon, and too daunting for a team that had no developers. So Leeds Air, who had also lost a team member or two, joined forces with iWalk to create something together.

As the day drew to a close, the ODI Leeds team scurried about to get the prizes ready ahead of the final show-and-tell. Three groups made it to the end, from countless ideas generated from the open meeting in January and a busy day on Friday adding to the Hackpad.

Below is a short summary and video of the projects in action:

Leeds Air

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The final outcome from the Leeds Air team was pieced together from ideas of both Leeds Air and iWalk, and whilst it had no polished outcome, the concept is sound and creates a great foundation to work from. The idea being that public displays would present localised air quality information, with illustrated advice about how to improve air quality for the future. For example, air quality tends to be really bad in winter, when a combination of still air and wood-burning fires means bad particles stick around for longer. The public displays would recommend that people walk/cycle more or use public transport, and burn less fossil-fuel.

Mini Car Counter

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The mini car counter is actually a project from a previous hackathon - HighwaysHack. Having conquered all of the bugs and glitches that was holding it back, the little car counter had now migrated onto a mobile, making it the mini car counter. It accurately counted the number of cars passing by Munro House during the show-and-tell, with the long-term aim of using numberplate recognition and matching it with emissions info to suggest what air quality was like in the area being recorded.


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James Tate from the University of Leeds spent his weekend exploring the blustery streets of Leeds, armed with his phone and an expensive particle counter. More a proof of concept than a final prototype, James proved that both noise and air pollution levels could be recorded together and the data analysed together. It was his hope that eventually both things could be done from a single device.

With #AirHack over, there is still much work to be done. Building on the success of the Leeds&Bradford Things Network and the flood sensors, could something similar be done for air quality? Does the future lie in big, outdoor sensors? Or in personal portable sensors all connected to each other? What needs to change in terms of policy and education?

Take a break. Catch your breath.