Project: Participatory Urban Sensing with Handheld Devices



Nirupama Bulusu (PI)

Collaborators: Jens Mache (Lewis and Clark College), Jeanette Palmiter (Portland State University)

Student Contributors: Damon Tyman, Phillip Sitbon, Seungweon Park, Jon Charnas, Afreen Khan



The next generation of networked sensing applications will monitor the urban world inhabited by people. The sensor data will come from the people themselves, rather than require a dedicated infrastructure. In this paradigm, referred to as “Participatory Urban Sensing” by many prominent researchers including Deborah Estrin and Henri Tirri, ordinary citizens can contribute sensed data gathered via handheld devices and cell phones, and publish it directly on the web using geo-centric web interfaces such as Google Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth.  Potential applications of Participatory Urban Sensing include people collecting detailed air pollution readings of a neighborhood, or live traffic data and publishing such data on the Internet.


Although urban sensing systems are poised to transform many application domains, currently there exist no educational materials and teaching strategies that are suitable for use in the activity-based teaching of students. This proposed project will fill this void by developing and class-testing a practicum course on participatory and urban sensing at Portland State University. We will be using two types of devices, the Nokia N800/N810s for publishing image data and the Sun SPOT devices for scalar data (light, temperature, humidity etc.). For the Nokia N800s, we will be using the Cascades programming framework developed at Portland State University, to publish data on SensorMap developed by Microsoft Research.


The project is closely coupled with an NSF-sponsored project on developing activity based laboratory materials for teaching sensor network concepts to undergraduates. With generous equipment donation from Sun Microsystems, we have developed and class-tested programming labs with the Sun Spots during Winter 2008. Student feedback and evaluation were collected using survey forms for each laboratory course and personal interviews conducted by Dr. Jeanitte Palmiter, the educational consultant from January to March 2008.


In this follow-up course, we will teach students how to develop participatory urban sensing applications. We have developed preliminary labs which allow the students how to publish data on the Internet using the SunSpots or the Nokia devices. For the course, the students will develop a course project on participatory and urban sensing with this practicum knowledge.


The resources developed are listed below.



Resources Developed



          Winter 2008: CS 410/510 Sensor Networks

            Spring 2008: CS 410/510 Advanced Sensor Networks: Participatory and Urban Sensing


Labs Developed


          Labs: CS 410/510 Sensor Networks Sun Spot Labs 


Lab: Publishing Sensor Data with a Sun SPOT

Lab: Installing Cascades on a Nokia N800/N810

Lab: StreetWise: Participatory Sensing Application with Traffic, Publishing Data acquired using the Cascades framework on SensorMap



External Resources

          Sun SPOTS




 National Science Foundation Sun Microsystems