自己的空氣自己救

公民社群推空氣盒子
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2020 / 5月

文‧謝宜婷 圖‧林旻萱


台灣民眾對空氣品質的追求,催生出了「空氣盒子」,運用微型感測器與大數據偵測空氣汙染,在網路上公布當下的空氣狀況。這項技術領先全球,使台灣擁有豐富的數據分析,成為國際的典範,吸引各國來台取經與合作。


訊舟科技生產的空氣盒子,約有6,000台安裝在國內,4,000台在國外,民眾只要到網頁「EdiGreen 空氣盒子」,就可以看見空氣盒子全球所在地的PM2.5數值。這款產品不光是企業的生產成果,而是結合了學術界、民間創客社群、政府三方合作的結果。

產官學合作,大量蒐集數據

空氣盒子的發想者是中研院研究員陳伶志與LASS社群(開源公益環境感測網路)創辦人哈爸(本名為許武龍)。約在2015年,已經投入微型感測器一段時間的陳伶志,遇上正推出第一版感測器硬體的哈爸,兩人都對空氣污染議題有興趣,因此開始合作推出「開源空氣感測」計畫。

「我們兩個有種一搭一唱的默契。」陳伶志回想,當初在臉書LASS社群裡,他與哈爸公開了空氣盒子的程式、硬體做法、安裝方法,再加上哈爸創造話題的功力,吸引了一群創客自掏腰包去製作空氣盒子,有些甚至願意遠到澎湖去安裝,盡可能蒐集台灣各地的空氣數據。

但是,社群的力量有限,正當兩人苦於數據不足時,空氣盒子因緣際會地加入了台北市智慧城市的計畫,引起了大眾與媒體的關注。而空氣盒子的系統整合廠商訊舟科技,也出自企業社會責任,決定捐贈空氣盒子給六都使用。接著,連民間都開始出現「認養」空氣盒子的團體,全台偵測空氣品質的據點瞬間提升。

而這股公民力量,政府也注意到了。2017年,政府推出前瞻計畫,找了陳伶志負責空氣盒子的佈署,他決定與教育部合作,將空氣盒子安裝在全國許多國小校園內,不僅可以蒐集大量數據,也可以幫助教師依空氣狀況,調整室內外活動類型。

化誤解為合作,環保署也認同

有了豐富的數據,LASS社群開始做視覺化分析,g0v零時政府也加入,其他對空氣污染的創客也開始進行各項分析。

然而,這個時候,LASS社群設計的空氣盒子卻受到質疑。環境工程領域的專家認為空氣盒子的數值不準確,可信度有待考證。陳伶志對此無奈地說:「我們與環境工程在做的完全不一樣啊!只是大家做的主題都是PM2.5,自然會被比較。」

陳伶志解釋,環境工程使用的空氣測站,看的是一小時以上的平均值,是空氣穩定下來的結果;微型感測器,看的是五分鐘內的數值,是瞬間的狀態,抽菸、跑步引起的揚塵都可能會影響數據。兩種儀器有不同的用途,各有長處,一起使用才能發揮相輔相成的效果。

「剛開始環工的人還以為,我們做的東西是玩具耶!」哈爸笑著說,創客給人動手嘗試的印象,但也讓人誤會作品不夠專業。與環境工程的測站相比,空氣盒子是從資訊工程與大數據的角度去分析,透過物聯網呈現即時的空氣狀況,滿足民眾的需求,而測站的目標是蒐集大氣中各項指標的數值,與民眾的直接關連較低。不過,兩者並不衝突。

「空氣盒子很重要的用途是追蹤汙染源。」陳伶志表示,觀測空氣盒子在不同地點、不同時間的數據變化,可以推測出汙染的方位。雖然環保署一開始對空氣盒子準確度也抱有疑慮,但是確定其品質的一致性後,現在已經用空氣盒子來追蹤汙染源,取締非法工廠。

「空氣盒子以前是打游擊戰,現在是正規軍囉!」陳伶志對空氣盒子短時間的大量應用感到又驚又喜。

社群連結,跨領域分析

空氣盒子的發展漸趨成熟,社群的力量也跟著茁壯。地方民間團體開始自主「認養」空氣盒子,在臉書上成立地方空氣觀測社團,例如宜蘭、台中、桃園等地,互相分享與討論當地空氣狀況。LASS社群中也加入了更多元的使用者,無論是學術界、產業界、民間創客,都可以在裡面產生連結。

訊舟科技產品規劃部經理吳靜美分享,她也是LASS社群的成員,透過社群她可以隨時了解空氣盒子使用者的回饋,每年訊舟科技也會邀請社群成員進行討論,發揮當初空氣盒子的開發精神──共享共創。

目前PM2.5分布地圖主要有四個單位在做:環保署、LASS社群、g0v零時政府、訊舟科技Edigreen。陳伶志表示,網路上有創客會運用原始空氣資料,跨領域分析。在醫療界,有醫師研究氣喘及呼吸睡眠中止症與空氣中PM2.5的關係;在地理統計領域,有專家透過公式與空氣盒子數值,推測出中央山脈的空氣品質,解決了山中沒有電力提供測站運作的問題。

社群力量不僅投入空氣品質數據的呈現與分析,還落實在公民健康的社會關懷上。陳伶志的研究團隊推出「揪心安」計畫,針對彰化、雲林、嘉義地區,徵求有呼吸照護需求的家庭,提供免費的空氣盒子,讓照顧者依數據決定當下是否需要開窗或空氣清淨機。陳伶志提到,當初他的母親是氣切患者,因此家中格外注意空氣品質,這也是讓他興起幫助相同處境家庭的原因。

開源精神,共享共創

空氣盒子從最初創客的作品,發展成銷售韓國、新加坡、美國等國家的商品,成功的關鍵來自「開源」的精神,創作者將程式公開於網路上,有興趣的人可以直接應用,也可以依照需求稍作調整,社會上對空氣品質監測的風潮逐漸興盛。

「空氣盒子剛做出來的時候,很多人問我們怎麼不申請專利,其實,這個東西並不困難,我們只是先做出來而已。而且申請專利之後,這個東西就變成專屬我們的系統,無法繼續長大。但是,當程式開放,就會有很多人加進來,系統就會越來越大。」陳伶志與哈爸都認為,空氣盒子計畫重要的是最後成效,而非賺錢。

社群裡的創客秉持著貢獻的精神,然而,這份熱情當初也曾遭遇瓶頸。即使創客願意自掏腰包製作、安裝空氣盒子,但沒有民眾願意開放個人空間的話,就無法蒐集到數據。「產品服務切合需要,才會吸引人。」LASS後來以空氣品質數據提供為「賣點」,打中民眾想要了解空氣品質的需求,讓他們也有熱情投入這項行動。

即使空氣盒子成為商品,製造廠商訊舟科技依然保持開放的精神,將監測到的數據公開於網路,不僅有益於系統的擴大,也彌補了學術界、創客社群不足的地方。「創客做的東西無法大量生產,學術界做的東西只是研究,一定要加入產業,才有可能擴大規模。」哈爸表示,當初投入空氣盒子計畫,就有覺悟社群雖然是推動改變的力量,但是光靠社群絕對不夠。

「LASS現在在台灣的社群很大,不只有創客了,還集結了跨領域的人才,彼此激盪想法。」陳伶志肯定台灣目前在空氣感測領域的表現,不同類別的單位投入,使得國內擁有非常豐富的數據,讓台灣在全球空氣感測的研究領先,成為先鋒。                     

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近期文章

EN

A Community-Driven Effort to Improve Our Air

Taiwan’s AirBox Sensors

Tina Xie /photos courtesy of Lin Min-hsuan /tr. by Scott Williams

EdiGreen’s AirBox, a device that uses microsensors to check air pollution levels, generating big data that is published online, has emerged from the Taiwanese public’s pursuit of better air quality. This world-­leading technology is providing Taiwan with rich data for analysis, attracting fact-­finding missions, and spurring cooperation with other nations.


More than simply a manufactured good, EdiGreen’s AirBox is the product of cooperation between academia, the maker community and government.

Large-scale data collection

The AirBox concept was originated by Chen Ling-jyh, a research fellow at Academia Sinica, and Hsu Wuulong (who goes by “Ha Ba”), the founder of an online community focused on location-aware sensing systems (LASS). The two first met sometime around 2015. Chen was already working with microsensors, and Hsu had just developed his first microsensing hardware. Since both were interested in the problem of air pollution, they decided to work together on an open-source air quality sensor.

“We worked well together.” Chen says that he and Hsu released the AirBox’s programming, as well as directions for how to make and install the hardware, on the LASS Facebook group. That, along with Hsu’s ability to create Facebook topics, encouraged a group of makers to build AirBoxes at their own expense. Some even traveled as far as the islands of Penghu to install them, in order to collect air quality data from as many parts of Taiwan as possible.

Even so, the community’s capabilities were limited. But then, just as the two men were struggling with a lack of data, Taipei added the AirBox to its Smart City project, attracting media and public attention. Edimax Technology, which was handling the AirBox’s system integration, subsequently decided to donate AirBoxes to Taiwan’s six special municipalities as a corporate social respons­ibil­ity project. With groups of private citizens also “adopting” AirBoxes, the number of air quality testing sites in Taiwan soared.

The government noted this exercise of civic strength. When it launched the Forward-looking Infrastructure Development Program, it brought in Chen to help with the deployment of AirBoxes, which fell under the program’s green energy category. Chen then worked with the Ministry of Education to install AirBoxes on elementary school campuses all over Taiwan. This not only allowed the collection of large volumes of data, but also enabled teachers to adapt student activities to the current air quality.

From confusion to cooperation

However, environmental engineers began to express concerns that the community-designed AirBox had not yet been certified and its data might not be accurate. Visibly frustrated, Chen says: “We were doing something completely different from what environmental engineers were! But since everyone was looking at PM2.5 [airborne particulate matter up to 2.5 microns diameter], people naturally made comparisons.”

Chen explains that when environmental engineers sample the air using air testing stations, they average the data over periods of one hour or more, to smooth out fluctuations. In contrast, the AirBox’s microsensors look at values over five-minute periods, yielding snapshots that can be influenced by events such as a person smoking nearby, or a passing jogger kicking up dust. The two systems have different applications and different strengths that can complement one another when used together.

“At first, environmental engineers thought our devices were toys!” laughs Hsu. He says that many people think makers are just fooling around and trying things out, which creates the mistaken idea that their products ­aren’t well made. He goes on to say that AirBoxes are designed for different ends than air testing stations—they meet a public need by analyzing data from an information engineering and big data perspective, using the Internet of Things to acquire air quality information in real time. In contrast, air testing stations collect data on a broad variety of atmospheric indicators that are of less direct interest to the public. Hsu argues that these different missions are not antagonistic.

“An important AirBox function is identifying sources of pollution.” Chen explains that by observ­ing how readings change at different AirBox locations at different times, you can get a good idea which direction pollution is coming from. While the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) initially had concerns about the accuracy of AirBox data, it has since confirmed that the data are consistent and is using AirBoxes to track pollution sources and crack down on illegal factories.

Forging ties

As AirBox development has progressed, its community has strengthened. Local ­organizations have begun “adopting” the devices, and establishing local air quality monitoring groups on Facebook that share and discuss local air conditions in places such as Yilan, Taichung and Taoyuan. The LASS community has also seen an influx of new users, enabling people from academia, industry and the maker community to connect.

There are currently four major organizations producing maps showing PM2.5 distribution in Taiwan: the EPA, the LASS community, the g0v movement (an open source, open government collaboration), and EdiGreen. Chen says that there are also online maker groups and others applying multidisciplinary analysis to air data. For example, doctors are studying the relationship between PM2.5 and conditions such as asthma and sleep apnea, and geostatisticians are applying formulas to AirBox data to produce air quality estimates for the Central Mountain Range, which doesn’t have its own monitoring stations because there’s no good way to power them.

Open source

From the AirBox’s introduction as a maker product to its maturation into a commercial product exported to South Korea, Singapore and the United States, the key to its success has been its open-source ethos. Its creators made its software available online from the outset, allowing others to apply it directly or to adapt it to their particular needs, and laying the groundwork for the rise of community-­based air quality observation.

“When the AirBox first came out, many people asked us why we didn’t patent it. The truth is, this thing wasn’t hard to make; we just did it first. If we’d patented it, the AirBox would have become exclusively our system, and wouldn’t have continued to mature. By making the software public, we attracted other people onboard, enabling the system to grow.” Chen and Hsu believe that the important thing about the AirBox project is that it succeed, not that it make money.

“Taiwan’s LASS community is large and varied, including not just makers, but professionals from a variety of fields who spark each other’s ideas.” Chen avers that it is precisely the wide variety of organizations engaging in atmospheric sensing in Taiwan that has generated our abundance of domestic data and propelled Taiwan to the forefront of global atmospheric sensing research. 

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