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New App Detects Polluted Water

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, April 25 2013

Image of Mobosens technology from its website.

A new dongle for smartphones can be used to crowdsource a clean water project out to concerned citizens worldwide. The Mobosens dongle senses water quality and sends the information to the cloud where it is stored, aggregated and mapped. Users can also post and share data on social media, which adds to both the collective knowledge and the all-important awareness of an area’s water quality.

The MoboSens add-on currently provides accurate nitrate concentration measurements and sends the information to the cloud for analysis and storage. The research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign hopes to expand the dongle’s capabilities to measuring heavy metals, carcinogens and bacteria.

“We not only want to allow everybody to own the sensor and use their smartphone for detecting water quality in their local environment, but also we want to create something called ‘crowdsensing.’ It’s very similar to crowdsourcing – the idea that everybody can contribute information into a public cloud website,” the lead professor on the project, Gang Logan Liu, said.

A tech writer for GigaOM said, “I like this project because it taps into what is awesome about the intersection between consumer technology and science. . . These projects take the notion of gathering personal data and empowers people to contribute it for the benefit of all. That’s the real promise of the internet [sic] of things.”

The research team won second place (out of more than 400 contestants) in the Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project, which comes with a $200,000 research grant. MoboSens seems like a project to keep an eye on. The sensor is apparently low-cost in design, but as a smartphone accessory it will be limited to a wealthier clientele. This also may prevent the expansion of the project into other, less economically developed countries where smartphone penetration is still low. We will have to wait to see if they can add sensors for the additional toxins and pollutants mentioned above and keep costs down.

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