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Beatriz da Costa, assistant professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, holds a homing pigeon use as part of her PigeonBlog exhibit going on this week at ZeroOne San Jose, a San Jose, Calif., festival held in conjunction with the annual International Symposium of Electronic Art. Pigeons in the project carry packs equipped with GPS-enabled electronic air quality sensing devices that send real-time air pollution and image data to an online map.
These birds are fully equipped with “backpacks” for their journey. The 37-gram packs contain GPS receivers, air pollution sensors and a digital camera. The pollution sensors detect a number of potentially harmful gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. The pigeons send data and photographs to a blog that is updated in real time. The results are displayed on the blog in the form of an interactive map.
By using the homing pigeons as the “reporters” of current air pollution levels, project organizers hope to invoke urgency about a topic that has health consequences.
PigeonBlog founder Beatriz da Costa and her partners have been working with pigeons for the past year on a data-gathering initiative designed to collect information about air quality conditions and distribute it to the general public.