Missing Link: The open source engine for green technologies

It is obvious that climate protection and digitization are currently at the top of the political agenda: the new EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has declared both topics to be the most important construction sites of her presidency and, without further ado, two of the three top positions of the Executive Vice President to be filled for her reserved. In this way, Frans Timmermans should promote climate protection and Margrethe Vestager digitalization.

What is missing: In the fast-paced world of technology, there is often time to rearrange the many news and backgrounds. At the weekend we want to take them, follow the side paths away from the current, try different perspectives and make nuances audible.

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No longer digitization, but the climate crisis and the extinction of species are now considered the greatest challenge facing mankind. However, both developments can come together: A possible component of a strategy for coping with the associated crises can be release strategies based on the open source model.

There is academic support for this: In its current report "Our Common Digital Future", the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) requires politicians to use digitization to serve sustainable development. One consequence of this is that the Federal Research Ministry presented an action plan for digitization and sustainability in mid-December. All of these are completely new tones. Because, as sustainability researchers Tilman Santarius and Steffen Lange put in their readable book "Smart Green World?" firmly: "So far, digital and network policy discussions have hardly been linked to the goal of a socio-ecological transformation of society".

In the past few months, not only civil society groups such as have attracted attention with disclosure strategies. Startups and established companies such as Toyota and Tesla also got on the topic. They are trying to position themselves better in the upcoming social and ecological transformation process. Four case studies show how diverse the implementation of the open source principle is in business and society.

For years, the situation with air pollution in Germany seemed to be stuck: The development of air quality, especially in cities, at a low level. With the support of the "Open Knowledge Foundation", the Stuttgart project has developed instructions for the construction of fine dust measuring devices and put them on the net (see "Dust catcher: Setting up fine dust and environmental data measuring devices with ESP8266" in c't 12/2019 p. 154).

Every citizen can build his own measuring device. There are lively do-it-yourself communities in numerous cities worldwide. Almost 9000 sensors are now active in 68 countries at the same time. 4900 send from Germany, in almost every city you can find the self-made measuring devices.

The Technical University of Berlin evaluated the data from the Berlin sensors from for a study. In this way, she was not only able to identify chronically polluted streets and train stations, but also to discover high values ​​in the entry lanes at Tegel Airport. Large events are also demonstrably leaving their mark due to increased fine dust levels.

Air pollution, Ruhr area

(Image: Photo RaBe, public domain (Creative Commons CC0))

There have been two web apps for since May: Under, users can register and configure the sensors. All sensor data are collected and archived via the app. They can be accessed and evaluated under the "Open Database License". Individual sensors can be observed via and users can be notified by email if they are exceeded. Here you can choose whether you want to be warned when the legal fine dust limit of 50 µg / m³ is exceeded, or much earlier. You can also specify the period in which the mean value of the sensors must not exceed the limit.

The project uses the sensor data collected from private users to generate a particulate matter map, the data of which is updated every five minutes. The more reddish a tile turns, the more fine dust particles were measured. With the real-time values, current dust pollution can be better shown here, for example due to fires. The maps of official measuring stations, on the other hand, mostly show 24-hour averages, which always lag behind the current development.

Initiator Jan Lutz hopes that with increasing numbers of users and sensors, not only the technical but also the political interest in better air quality will grow. Political pressure is expected to increase due to the openly accessible measurement data. The aim of "" is that politicians take appropriate measures as soon as limit values ​​are exceeded.

In the medium term, the private sensor data could supplement the official measurement data by pointing to hotspots in real time. These in turn could be checked by the official measuring stations of the environmental offices, which also
deliver legal data.

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. (tagsToTranslate) energy transition (t) climate change (t) missing link (t) open source