PlanetWatch is building a community-driven global air quality monitoring network. Unlike other air quality monitoring systems which rely on data interpolation, our high-density network provides hyperlocal, near real-time information for targeted measures to improve air quality and mitigate local pollution hotspots.
Our sensors are nimble and easy to install, which means individuals, communities and organisations can all play a part in collecting air quality data without relying on centralised funding or institutions. It is a great example of “citizen science” in action.
The data gathered from sensors operated by our users is stored anonymously on the Algorand blockchain – a high-performance and “green” decentralised ledger. Users earn rewards in return for data streams from their sensors. These rewards, PLANETS tokens, can be used to purchase further products, which will soon include items such as air purifiers or, following our partnership with Treedom, to plant trees in sustainable forests. Air pollution is an issue affecting us all, and our solution can empower anyone to improve global health and well-being.
How did you come up with the idea for PlanetWatch?
I worked at CERN for several years, the leading physics research organization in the world and the place where the Web was born. While working there, I realised that blockchain technologies could add value and transparency to citizen science projects. Finally, when I became aware that some environmental monitoring challenges could be addressed via a citizen science approach, the idea for PlanetWatch emerged. The first use case for PlanetWatch is air quality monitoring.
Air pollution is a major threat to people’s health and to our climate. It is estimated that 4.2 million people die every year because of outdoor air pollution and 99% of the global population breathe air which exceeds WHO guideline limits on pollutants .
Unfortunately, traditional air monitoring solutions do not provide sufficient coverage and density of data to accurately identify pollution hotspots, both outdoors and indoors. That’s where PlanetWatch comes in. By incentivising individuals to deploy and operate air monitoring sensors, we can roll out high-density sensor networks quickly and cost-effectively worldwide. Data from such networks is instrumental to establish actionable measures to improve air quality for all.
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How has PlanetWatch evolved during the pandemic?
PlanetWatch is now two years old, so in many ways it is a project which has developed alongside the Covid-19 pandemic. One aspect which the pandemic has certainly highlighted is the need for improved indoor air quality in our workspaces, schools, and homes.
Our network includes thousands of indoor sensors all over the world. The data gathered by our users can lead to efficient and workable solutions to improve indoor air quality, which not only combats airborne transmission of viruses, but also improves physical and mental health more generally.
What can we hope to see from PlanetWatch in the future?
Our main focus is on growing our network by encouraging as many people as possible to get their own sensors. Currently our network comprises close to 60,000 sensors – mostly in Europe and in the US – and we aim to provide extensive coverage across at least 20 large cities around the world in 2022. In late 2021, we received backing through Borderless Capital’s $10m PLANETS.Fund, which will play a key role in expanding PlanetWatch’s network.
We are partnering increasingly with local authorities and organisations who recognise the need to act against air pollution in their cities. Most recently, we announced a collaboration with the Mayor of Miami to deploy sensors in the city on a large scale. More partnerships like these will help broaden our global reach while making a real difference for people on the ground and for the environment as a whole.
Ultimately, we are looking to be the largest and most reliable global air quality monitoring network, and the last two years have been an excellent start in that respect.