Crowd-Sourced Eco-Monitoring

An idea that’s been kicking around for a while… but which I first came across on the DIYbio mailing list is that of a Bio-Weathermap.

Basically it’s a way of keeping tabs on what’s going on in the world… by means of local bird-watchers uploading their observations to a central location… and by ‘bird-watcher’, I obviously mean train-spotter, or anyone else who has a fascination with a particular niche etc… and there are a surprisingly large number of these, they’re just not coordinated yet.

I find this quite an interesting idea – partly because I’m interested in Algae, as a potential source of great wealth, and because it nearly killed a local lake… though I visited it today, and I’ve never (in 40-odd years) seen it so clear.

This turned up recently:

Which is Joe DeRisi giving a talk on Virus-Hunting in which he talks about automated diagnosis of virii… using a virus library on a chip… and this…

Jamais Cascio talking about “Tools for building a better world”… in which he suggests the possibility of using cell-phones to monitor… well, everything. The Earth-Witness Project he calls it.

These two concepts coming together could be… well, cool… although Jamais is specifically talking about a de-coupling of observation and analysis. There’s more of a viral push to being able to see the results yourself, straight away etc – especially if there’s some chance you might discover gold… or at least a new species that could be named after you etc.

I’ve been noticing the possibility of cell-phone based distributed monitoring more and more – plugins for phones. One that turned up today is this:


A cellphone that can detect diseases in a user’s breath (via).

To be honest, I was invisaging something a little bit more like this :


Except a lot smaller – fused or plugged into your phone so you forget it’s there… so people strolling round lakes or fishing in rivers or driving a tractor round their farm etc, can take a couple of seconds out to snap a micro-photo and have it auto-uploaded to a central point where people thousands of miles away can analyse, track etc… to be honest, I just have this picture in my head of an absolutely massive website that looks like this:


It always was about the art… but I’m also interested in resilience… and in the areas where we have in-built, inherent, unavoidable single-points-of-failure… because we only have “one system”… eg:, the biosphere, the internet… we really need to keep an eye on things because the waters ahead are likely to be fairly stormy by all accounts.

ps: also turning up recently is this : A gadget that looks like a cellphone for gardeners to gauge the sugar content in fruit – and if the first decade of the 21st Century has taught us anything it’s “things that look like cellphones but aren’t cellphones tend to get swallowed by a cellphones”.

Or more accurately, cellphones are telephones that have been swallowed from the inside (without anyone noticing) by computers… so they’re basically computers… they’re just a bit lacking on the peripheral front at the moment.

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  1. […] This is also a mechanism that would support the Crowd-Sourced Eco-Monitoring that I was on about earlier. I think there are fairly huge benefits to this as well. Social […]