This team has built adorable tiny backpacks for pigeons to track air pollution

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It’s time to take wearable devices to the next level. Plume Labs and DigitasLBi have teamed up for an interesting experiment. What if pigeons could fly around London with tiny backpacks to measure air pollution during peak hours? I’m not sure if they were drunk when they thought about this idea, but 10 pigeons are currently flying above London for the next 3 days to do just that.

The Pigeon Air Patrol is wearing custom-made backpacks that are as light as a feather. These backpacks monitor ozone, volatile compounds and nitrogen dioxide as well as the location of the pigeons. And they are adorable.

These aren’t your average pigeons. The team is working with Brian and his racing pigeons to make sure that they are up to the task. A vet is also checking the pigeons regularly. And if you live in London, you can follow the Pigeon Air Patrol on Twitter and ask them for the latest pollution reading in your area.

Plume Labs has been working on pollution prediction for a while. With the Plume Air Report app on iOS and Android, you can see the current pollution in your area and get a forecast for the next 24 hours. It works for hundreds of cities around the world. It’s like a weather app, but for air pollution.

The company is using open data from existing weather stations but plans to extend its data points using wearable devices. While pigeons make for a great marketing stunt, the company is already working on clippable pollution measuring devices for… you know… humans.

The Imperial College London plans on collaborating with Plume Labs for a research project called E-Plume. This time, 100 human Londoners will track their daily exposure to air pollution to understand pollution hotspots and patterns.

“The idea is that we can build a ‘Waze for pollution’ thanks to this data from our users,” Plume Labs co-founder and CEO Romain Lacombe told me. The Plume Air Report app already tries to predict pollution, but it could be more accurate with more data points.

Plume Labs started a crowdfunding campaign to support the research project. Backers get to take part in the human experiment later this year.