Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands has long cemented the popular image of freshness due to its canals, trees, and the propensity of its residents to get around by bicycle. So it was quite surprising to learn that as early as last year, the city has gotten warning scores in European studies of air quality, the telltale signs of an air pollution problem. As Amsterdam has not been able to enact having low emission zones in its city limits for all private vehicles, things have gotten so bad that last May, according to The Guardian, pollution readings have fully broken the EU standard.

Now, as CNN reports, local digital media designer Joris Lam has effected a brainstorm of an idea that could encourage Amsterdammers to keep the smoke levels down by giving them an indispensable modern convenience in return. It goes by the name “Tree Wifi”.

The project involves setting up wireless broadband routers in birdhouse-shaped units all over the city to provide free Wifi to passing motorists and even homes and businesses. But there is a catch: a Popular Science article reveals the Tree Wifi birdhouses also contain pollution sensors capable of measuring emission levels from vehicle fumes, and electronically transmitting air quality readings to a central server. Only when the air pollution in an area covered by a birdhouse goes down an acceptable level, that the free Wifi is enabled for everyone.

Lam explains the system further; at the start of a new day, “When the central air quality server notices a decrease in pollution level at a particular birdhouse compared to the day before, it opens up the internet connection. The Wi-Fi network itself is always available for people to connect with, regardless of the air quality, but if the air quality is poor, instead of free internet it gives information and tips on how to improve air quality.”

People observing the Wifi birdhouses also get a quick visual indicator of when the air quality is improving – and when free internet can be had. The cleaner the air reading is, the more of the birdhouse’s LED’s light up. For Lam, it’s all the better to inspire Amsterdammers to clean up their act for free Wifi, by driving private cars less and taking public transport, or simply biking instead.

At present the Tree Wifi project is still testing prototypes, but Amsterdam city officials have stood up and taken notice. Furthermore, Lam says that parties from other countries have expressed interest in the system. And having received enough funding to hire enough engineers and scientists to fine-tune the technology and reward method, Lam sees these additional deals as fitting Tree Wifi’s aspirations to go international.

Photo Credit to efig.co.uk


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