Evaluating air quality and noise along soft routes


Public health is well served by promoting walking and cycling. However, distressing messages about poor air quality along cycling and walking roots may hinder the public for making the decision to be physically active during commuting or recreation. Moreover it is more pleasant to walk or cycle along tranquil routes. IDEA promotes participatory sensing to explore tranquil and healthy routes. Compact sensor boxes, carried by lay people are used for this purpose. This case wants to demonstrate that participatory sensing can both raise public awareness and stimulate local politicians to make more tranquil and healthy routes available. The data gathered can in a later phase be applied in route planning or it can become promotional material for “green” cities and regions. Quick jump to the running measurements: Sideways (August 17th and September 17th) by clicking the IDEAlife logo.

IDEA’s innovation and strengths

Participatory sensing by lay people inherently introduces some uncertainty on the measurement conditions. For noise measurements for example, the person or vehicle carrying the equipment can be noisy. Hence a strong data quality check is needed. The IDEA intelligence allows identifying most of the sounds and thus creates the opportunity to use participatory sensing to observe environmental sounds and evaluate the soundscape ignoring most sounds made by the participant.

Detailed description of the demonstrator

Between August 17th and September 17th IDEA is riding the back of a donkey carrying multimedia devices as part of the Sideways Festival organized by “Trage Wegen vzw”. Sideways is announced as a Slow Life Festival with 50 artists and a multimedia donkey on a 334 km journey across Belgium. The caravan will travel alternative routes through the countryside with stops at different smaller and larger cities. IDEA takes the opportunity to map air quality (black carbon) and noise along the route. Although observations at every location are extremely short, IDEA hopes to retrieve some variable information on the quality of “soft routes” in Flanders. After all, this 334 km sound and air pollution walk will be one of the longest ever performed.

Noise level past 10 minutes:

Noise level past hour:

Maps with raw data:







Prof. Dr. Ir. Dick Botteldooren
+32 (0) 9 264 99 68

Technologiepark-Zwijnaarde 126, 9052 Gent



©IDEA-Project 2009