Note: this post was written by element14's Christian DeFeo.
The Challenge We Face
On September 21, simultaneous protests took place in over 2,000 places worldwide. What united the hundreds of thousands of protestors in locations as varied as New York, Sydney, Mexico City, Paris, London and Rio de Janiero was a profound worry about the impact of global climate change.
To see what effect climate change may have on human civilization, consider Exhibit A: the Checkerspot butterfly:
This spectacular butterfly was once common to the San Francisco Bay area. It has been directly affected by climate change: increased air pollution has added nitrogen to the soil, which has encouraged the growth of invasive new plants, killing off its main sources of nourishment. The butterfly has disappeared from habitats where it once flourished, and is presently on the endangered list.
A Message of Hope
But all may not be lost. The United Nations recently reported that the ozone layer is healing. The 1987 Montreal Protocol, which was put in place to eliminate ozone-depleting chemicals, such as those found in aerosols and refrigerators, has worked: the ozone layer is on track to recover by the middle of this century.
We at element14 believe that technology can help us pull back from the abyss.
Along with our partners, element14 is committed to helping save the planet by tapping into the ingenuity and dedication of the world’s brightest engineers. The combination of components and services in our "In the Air" design challenge will enable the creation of IoT applications which can monitor pollution and help people make good decisions about the air they breathe.
For example, think about traffic jams. According to the Canadian government –
"...if Canadian motorists avoided idling for just three minutes every day of the year, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 1.4 million tonnes annually. This would be equal to saving 630 million litres of fuel and equivalent to taking 320,000 cars off of the road for the entire year."
With IoT pollution sensors in place, city officials would know which roads to open and which ones to close, or if they should lay on extra mass transport and then see the effect of these changes in real time.
Or imagine a smart home which uses external pollution sensors to automatically open and close vents to improve the quality of air breathed by the people inside.
Or wearable technology which would tell you whether today is a good day for that jog you’ve been planning, or whether the air quality is too poor, and that you would be better off hitting the elliptical instead.
This challenge also offers some fantastic prizes, including a 15 inch Macbook Pro with Retina Display, a multimeter from Keysight, and a TI SensorTag. We hope that this challenge will inspire our community as it inspires us: we urge anyone who is interested to join us in this challenge, which we hope and believe, will help save the planet we all share.
 "Emission impacts resulting from vehicle idling", Natural Resources Canada November 25, 2013 <http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/efficiency/communities-infrastructure/transportation/cars-light-trucks/idling/4415> [Accessed August 25, 2014]