Cell Phone Toting Blogger Pigeons

by Bruce Stewart

pigeon.jpg At least it's for a good cause. New Scientist is reporting that 20 pigeons will be outfitted with tiny backbacks containing GPS receivers, pollution monitoring equipment, and little cell phones in an attempt to measure pollution levels. The plan is for the gear the pigeons are carrying to automatically send SMS messages with the pollution level info back to a blog in real time.

"We are combining an air pollution sensor with a home-made cellphone," says interdisciplinary artist and researcher Beatriz da Costa of the University of California, Irvine, who came up with the idea of the pigeon blog with her students Cina Hazegh and Kevin Ponto. The team has built a prototype of the pigeons' kit containing a cellphone circuit board with SIM card and communication chips, a GPS receiver and carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide sensors. They now plan to squeeze all the components onto a single board small enough for the birds to carry in a back pack.

Part study, part art project, the pigeons are to be released during the Inter-Society for Electronic Arts' annual symposium in San Jose, California on August 5th. The pollution data will be displayed on the blog in the form of an interactive map, and the birds will even be equipped with little cameras around their necks to attempt to post aerial photos to the blog.