NoiseTube: Participatory sensing for noise pollution monitoring

Issue 1: Pollution assessment:Currently the assessment of population exposure to pollution is a real problem due to the complexity to measure it. For officials, measuring exposure at an individual level for a citywide population is viewed as impractical. Other approaches such as simulation are thus often required, with all their uncertainties. Furthermore real time city monitoring perfomed by environmental sensor networks is currently limited due a very sparsed deployment of (costly) sensors in the city (<10 air quality sensors in Paris).

Issue 2: Lack of involvement from the public in the management of commons: Secondly the current involvement of the public in the management of urban issues is low, constraining the public to be passive observers. Can we change such management toward a more participatory one, not only at the decision making step , but also during the assessment strategy? I started working on new participatory sensing approach to monitor the environment and identifying hazards. The main question was Can we transfer open collaboration and social production practices from Wikipedia or open source projects into real world and environmental management context? How could the practice of pollution monitoring change if every citizen had mobile instrument devices?

Authoring Public Spaces with Environmental Sensors

The idea:The idea of the project NoiseTube[1] was to extend the current usage of mobile phones by turning them into environmental sensors and create a novel participatorz approach to monitor the population exposure to noise (170 Millions of people impacted in EU). At the individual level, we empower each citizen to measure his personal exposure in his daily environment, and also to annotate,localize (via gps) and send it to the platform to inform the community about his situation. At a collective level, by involving the citizens we create an adaptive and low cost sensors network 1/ matching the rich diversity of lifestyles, activities of people for a limited cost, 2/ supplying open data on real people exposure for environmental/health studies and 3/ building a collaborative exposure map facilitating local decisions and collective actions.  The current web platform will form a data commons, a Wikipedia of environmental data where everybody could add, update, discuss and visualize the pollution exposure on a map.

NoiseTube is one of the first projects related to urban pollution directly accessible to the public. The study of noise pollution and the raise of smartphones provide the opportunity to study large scale and real “green empowerment” for the public in unpredefined cases. Everybody could participate at different levels to facilitate the emergence of dialogue between the different stakeholders and collective actions.

In the spirit of the Web 2.0 culture we expect new networked participation models to emerge for environmental monitoring that fully tap into the potential of citizen science, via new forms of collaboration, more horizontal and bi-directional, between environmental sciences and citizens. More generally I investigate what design principles leverage participatory sensing as a platform for city-wide grassroots activism.

NoiseTube website


  • Maisonneuve N., Stevens M. and Ochab B. (2010) Noisetube: citizen noise pollution monitoring using mobile phones, Special Issue of the Information Polity Journal (extended version of an article accepted to the DGO2009 Conference)
  • Maisonneuve N. et al. (2009) Citizen Noise Pollution Monitoring. 10th Annual International Conference on Digital Government Research (dg.o2009)
  • Maisonneuve N. et al. (2009) « NoiseTube: Measuring and mapping noise pollution with mobile phones”. International Symposium on Information Technologies in Environmental Engineering.
  • Maisonneuve N. et al. (2008) Measure and map noise pollution with your mobile phone. Proceedings of DIY for CHI: Methods, Communities, and Values of Reuse and Customization.

In press

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