Dustbox Logbook

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Hello and thanks for contributing to this research project. The Citizen Sense project investigates how people monitor their environments, especially using digital technologies. We hope to better understand how residents in Deptford, New Cross and Greenwich monitor their environments, particularly for air pollution.

Jennifer Gabrys leads the Citizen Sense project, which is based in the Sociology department at Goldsmiths, University of London, and is funded through the European Research Council (ERC). Our research group is made up of two additional members, Helen Pritchard and Lara Houston, along with a wide range of consultant collaborators, who have a broad range of expertise, including science and technology studies, digital technology, environmental studies and creative practice.

We have an approach that emphasises research through participation. Our working process is to collaborate with you to identify monitoring concerns and sites, and to test sensors and analyse data together. We are interested in more than technology, and we would like to think about the types of practices, ways of organising, and approaches to using data that could develop along with the monitoring technologies that you use. The Dustbox monitors we have made are new and exploratory. As a result, you will be testing new devices, and you will have the chance to tell us what works, what doesn’t, and what could be better or different.

To begin the monitoring process, we are hosting an initial workshop in Deptford 29 October 2016 where we will introduce the Dustbox particulate matter sensors that we have made. We will also discuss where participants would like to monitor, and then go on a short walk of the area to look at key sites of concern. There will be up to 30 Dustboxes in circulation from 29 October 2016 to April 2017, with checkouts and returns of the devices available from the Deptford Lounge library.

You will find instructions for how to set up, use and maintain your Dustbox in this logbook, as well as instructions for how to view your data, and spaces for recording your environmental observations, together with additional resources on air pollution and air quality.

If you choose to document your observations in this logbook, we would be delighted to receive your logbook when you have finished monitoring. This will allow us to compare your observations to the sensor data over time. Instructions on how to return your materials are provided in the latter part of this logbook under ‘Dustbox Returns’.

You may also choose to provide your data and observations anonymously, or to be credited for your materials. If you refer to the ethics form provided with this logbook, you will see that you can choose which form of identification or anonymity you prefer. As the ethics form also notes, all of your material will be held safely and confidentially in our office in London, and you can withdraw from the research at any time.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@citizensense.net. For more information on our project, please see citizensense.net, and follow us on twitter at @citizen_sense.

We look forward to working with you and hearing more about your experiences of air quality in Deptford, New Cross and Greenwich.

Jennifer Gabrys
, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London New Cross, London SE14 6NW, United Kingdom


Dustbox Overview

The Dustbox is a particulate matter sensor designed by Citizen Sense specifically to undertake 'urban sensing' in Deptford, New Cross and Greenwich.

The Dustbox measures small particles between 1 to 2.5 micrometers (μm), which are effectively designated as particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) for this research in order to compare readings to official air quality guidance.

Particulate matter, especially within the smaller and ultra-fine ranges, has been demonstrated to have numerous short- and long-term health effects, including asthma, shortness of breath, and respiratory, pulmonary and cardiac problems. The average adult breathes around 3,000 gallons of air per day, and so considerable amounts of environmental pollutants can pass through bodies.

Particulate matter consists of a wide range of substances, including soot, dirt, dust, pollen, mould, and carbon to which volatile organic compounds have adhered. These particles can come from trees and soil, as well as automobiles, buildings, industrial activities, and many forms of combustion. The Dustbox shapes refer to these different types of particulates, which when viewed under intensive electron microscopes resemble the Dustbox forms that we have 3D printed in black ceramic.

The Dustboxes have been calibrated in relation to the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) and DEFRA Air Quality Observatory reference monitors at Marylebone Road. We have worked with atmospheric scientists at King’s College London to undertake the calibration process, and we have also tested all of the Dustboxes at Goldsmiths to compare and adjust values across the devices.

For more information on particulate matter, please refer to the ‘Resources’ section at the end of this logbook.

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How to Set Up Your Dustbox


  1. In order to setup the Dustbox, you will first need to download the Electric Imp app to your smartphone. This allows you to setup the WIFI connection for the Dustbox. Please note that Windows operating systems are not compatible with the Electric Imp app.

    For Android OS, go to:

    For Apple OS, go to:
    https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/electric-imp/id547133856?mt=8 image 1

  2. Once you have installed the Electric Imp app, sign in to the app with your username and password, which you will have received with the Dustbox. image 1

  3. Click ‘Configure a device’ to add your WIFI info to the Electric Imp. This will allow your Dustbox to send its particulate data to our platform and data analysis toolkit (which are available at http://www.citizensense.net/airsift-dust-box/ and http://www.citizensense.net/dustbox-streams). image 1 image 1 image 1 image 1

  4. Add your WIFI info, including network name and password, to the app. This information is stored in the app only, and is not shared with us or made public. image 1

  5. Plug the USB cable attached to the sensor to a wall socket to power up the device. The device should blink red or orange. If the device does not blink red or orange, you can click the SD card in and out, or unplug the device and plug it in again. You can also plug the USB cable in to your computer to power the device, but this is optional. image 1

  6. Blinkup the device by clicking ‘Start Blinkup.’ Similar to the picture on the app, hold your phone flat so that it is directly touching the vertical face of the white SD card. Be sure to point your phone away from you and do not look at the screen during this phase. image 1 image 1

    Please note the cautionary advice:
    ‘Caution: BlinkUp uses flashing light patterns. Please note that a very small percentage of individuals may experience epileptic seizures when exposed to such light patterns or flashing lights. If you have an epileptic condition, consult your physician prior to using this app to configure a device.’

    Hold your phone to the device for the flash phase. Your phone will vibrate when it has completed pairing. You should then receive a message indicating ‘device is connected.’ The card will flash red and orange then start flashing green.

    You do not need to note down this information, but it indicates that your device has been assigned a unique ID for talking to our platform.

    If your phone does not pair with the Electric Imp the first time and is still flashing orange, you may need to repeat the above steps. If you want to confirm whether your device is connected you can unplug your device and plug it back in again, and if the Electric Imp card flashes through to green this indicates you have a WIFI connection. You can also use the ‘clear device setting’ button, flash the device and then repeat the settings. image 1

  7. The Dustbox is a very low-power device, but if you would like to power off your Dustbox, you can shut this down by unplugging the USB cable. We recommend keeping your Dustbox in continual operation so as to generate a more complete and continuous dataset.

  8. If you turn your Dustbox back on again, there is no need to repeat the above steps, as the device will automatically begin to send data to our platform as long as a WIFI connection is available.

Continue reading for instructions on how to view your data, which are provided in the next section.

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Dustbox Data


  1. Once you have set up your Dustbox with the Electric Imp connection, you can view the data that your sensor is sending to the platform at http://www.citizensense.net/dustbox-streams.

  2. To view your stream, click ‘Explore’ and then on the next page select your Dustbox stream number (e.g., Dustbox 8, also noted in your logbook, and on your box). You should see particle counts and the time the data is sent on this platform.

  3. To edit your stream, you can click the ‘Manage’ button on the upper right-hand side of the page, and enter the private key provided with your Dustbox.

  4. Once you have added your private key, click ‘Edit’. In the ‘Edit Stream’ page, you can add a description of your stream, make your data visible or hidden, and change the location of your device from the drop-down menu, which will automatically plot your location to the map available on the Airsift platform.

  5. To view your data on a map on the Airsift platform, or to plot graphs of your data, visit http://www.citizensense.net/airsift-dustbox/. First, select your stream (e.g., Dustbox 8) from the drop-down menu. Then, select the type of graph or plot you would like to generate.

  6. Next, set your time period and mean, and choose a weather condition if desired. The weather data is sourced from Weather Underground data for the area.

  7. Press 'enter' and in a few moments your graph will plot beneath the drop-down menus (please note the advice on the terms of use for the data at the bottom of the page).

  8. You may wish to save plots and graphs that you generate, or download your data. You can do this by clicking ‘Download plot’ or ‘Download csv’.

  9. We recommend that you collect a dataset for 30 days as a minimum, but you might wish to collect data for a longer period. We anticipate that we will keep the Dustboxes in circulation for a period of 6 months, up until April 2017.

  10. For examples of how the plots and graphs can be assembled together along with observations and images, see datastories.citizensense.net as a previous example of how we worked with citizens to create new forms of evidence from their data.

  11. If you have any ideas about how you would like to assemble your data, or you would like to work with us to generate a data story, drop a line at info@citizense.net!

How to Use and Take Care of Your Dustbox, Including Safety Advice

In addition to setting up your Dustbox and viewing your data, you will want to consider a few additional points when using and maintaining your device, including:

  1. When identifying where to site your Dustbox, you will want to take note of your environment and select a location where you are wondering about likely pollution levels. Or you might like to establish general levels of air pollution away from obvious emission sources. Consider what you want to monitor, and the best location for monitoring this activity.

  2. Once you have decided where to site your Dustbox, carry out a pre-installation inspection of the monitoring site to ensure its suitability for locating the Dustbox.

  3. Select a location that is outdoors but sheltered and out of the rain, wind and elements. Before winds or rain occur, ensure the equipment is secure in the event of extreme weather activity.

  4. Ensure that air flow is able to reach the sensor by locating it away from obstructions. Place the device away from the ground and building surfaces (by approximately 1 meter distance).

  5. Avoid installing the Dustbox in areas that are difficult to access or present health and safety hazards, and choose a location that is free from slip or trip hazards.

  6. Do not place the Dustbox at height or in a location where it could fall and injure passers-by.

  7. If you have placed the Dustbox in an area of expected elevated pollution activity, minimise prolonged exposure by spending only short periods of time near the monitoring area.

  8. If you place the Dustbox close to a roadside, take precautions and set the device back from the road to minimise risk from traffic.

  9. To minimise risk from road traffic, do not walk along the road while using monitoring kit or while looking at the website collecting data from the devices.

  10. When installing your Dustbox, be sure to tape down any ground-level cables to minimise trip hazards.

  11. While the Dustbox is a low-power device, you should use an electric circuit breaker to minimise the risk of shock.

  12. Only plug the Dustbox in or out when it is dry outdoors.

  13. Regularly visually inspect the Dustbox to ensure it has not been damaged and there are no obvious defects.

  14. In the event that dust or bugs get lodged in your sensor, you can power off the device, open the ceramic case at the centre, and spray the sensor opening with canned air. If you have any questions about how to do this, please contact info@citizensense.net.

  15. While you will need to access the Electric Imp to set up the Wifi and to spray out the sensor, you should avoid dismantling the electronics as this could present a risk of shock, and could interfere with the measurement functioning of the device.

  16. Ensure the Dustbox is maintained and in a good state of repair when it is given to you. If it is not, you can return it to the Deptford Lounge or contact us at info@citizensense.net.

  17. Please note that by taking a Dustbox, you agree to take care of your kit and return it to us when requested. More information on how to return your device is available in the section, ‘Dustbox Returns’.

  18. If you are concerned about any changes in the equipment, please contact Citizen Sense at info@citizensense.net.

Note: We may add to this safety guide over time. Please refer to our website for the latest guidelines at http://www.citizensense.net/projects/urban-sensing/dustbox-safety-guide.

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Dustbox Returns

Once you have finished monitoring with your Dustbox, you can pack up the device in the box provided and return it to the Deptford Lounge at the main circulation desk.

The librarians will check in your device. They will then contact us so we can reprogram it.

We will assign the Dustbox a new and unique ID that is distinct from your Dustbox data, and return the reprogrammed Dustbox to the Deptford Lounge for additional checkout.

It will then be available for setup and use by the next person who wishes to collect particulate data.

We would be delighted if you returned your logbook to us. Your logbooks will allow us to refer to your observations when analysing the data you have collected. You can include your logbook in the Dustbox package when you return it to the Deptford Lounge. We will then pick up your package and return it to Goldsmiths.

If you have any questions about how to return your Dustbox, please contact info@citizensense.net.


During the workshop and walk that we are hosting on Saturday, 29 October 2016 in Deptford, we will map key sites where people would like to monitor, and we will also take a short walk to some of these sites in order to assess where and how to monitor the outdoor environment.

Included here is a map we have developed of key development and construction sites in the Deptford, New Cross and Greenwich areas. This map is also available on our Airsift Dustbox Data Analysis Toolkit website at http://www.citizensense.net/airsift-dustbox/.

As noted in the Dustbox Data section of the logbook, you can edit the location assigned to your device, and this will change how your Dustbox shows up on the map.

We will be adding mapping functionality to the Airsift Dustbox tool as people add their devices to the map. Further instructions on how to use the mapping tool will also be provided on the Airsift Dustbox page (http://www.citizensense.net/airsift-dustbox/).

You might also like to develop a walking itinerary of your own that passes by key pollution hotspots. You can submit your suggestion to us at info@citizensense.net and we will add your suggested walk to our website.

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You can note here events that you have noticed that might indicate pollution or other activity is occurring. You can then refer back to these notes once your and other participants’ datasets are more complete, as a way to compare whether your observations and the data tell a similar or different story.

Things you might make of note of, ideally on a weekly basis or as events occur, include:


Describe the particular smell or smells, as well as date and time of day, together with location:

Visible pollution

Visual signs of pollution might include haze, dust, smog, debris both suspended and settling on surfaces and buildings. Note date and time of day, together with location:

Visible activity

Visual signs of pollution-producing activities might include intensive traffic events, construction events, fires, or other industrial or building activity specific to the area in which you live. Note date and time of day, together with location:


You might also consider noting down intensive noise levels, particularly if you think they are associated with the visual signs of pollution-producing activities noted above. Note date and time of day, together with location:

News and scientific reports

If you notice news of pollution events in the news, on social media, or on websites or apps such as the London Air Quality Network (LAQN), you might like to note these here, including date and time of day, together with location:

Comparison to official pollution levels

In addition to noting other reports, you could make a note of official pollution levels recorded in the LAQN on days where you notice particularly high pollution events or activities:

Health effects

You could note down health effects experienced by you or others who are sensitive to air pollution, including asthma, allergies and shortness of breath. For a list of possible health effects experienced due to air pollution, see https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/air-pollution/effects, as well as resources listed at the end of this logbook:

Sending documentation

If you would like to share any of these observations with Citizen Sense, including photographs or other recordings, or if you notice patterns that link up your observations with your or other’s data, please do get in touch at info@citizensense.net.

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Upcoming events

We will be hosting occasional workshops and events to repair and troubleshoot issues that come up with Dustboxes and data, and also to discuss wider issues related to the changing fabric of Deptford, including urban regeneration and repair.

You can find more information about these upcoming events at: http://www.citizensense.net/projects/urban-sensing/dustbox-events.

Please check this site regularly, as new events will be added as they are confirmed.

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Air Quality Resources

Although this is far from a comprehensive list, below are a few resources that you can refer to if you would like to follow up and learn more on the topics of air quality and air pollution, whether in London, the UK, or farther afield.

We will continue to update this resource, which is also available on our website at http://www.citizensense.net/projects/urban-sensing/air-quality-resources. If you have any resources you would like to suggest, please send them to us at info@citizensense.net.


The EU Air Quality Objective is the current legislation for air quality in the UK. The limitation for PM 2.5 is 25 µg/m3 over a 1-year period.

As this is an average calculated over a longer period of time than you will be undertaking monitoring, you can also compare your readings to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance for PM 2.5, which is 25 µg/m3 for the 24-hour mean, and 10 µg/m3 for the annual mean (lower than the EU Air Quality Objective).

More information on the EU Air Quality Objective is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/quality/standards.htm.

The WHO guidelines for particulate matter are available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/69477/1/WHO_SDE_PHE_OEH_06.02_eng.pdf


London’s air quality is officially monitored through the London Air Quality Network (LAQN), a network of monitoring stations that is managed by King’s College London.

More information on London air quality, including readings at London air quality stations, can be found at: https://www.londonair.org.uk.

Additional London air quality resources include: Friends of the Earth, https://www.foe.co.uk.

Greater London Authority (GLA), Pollution and Air Quality, https://www.london.gov.uk/WHAT-WE-DO/environment/pollution-and-air-quality.

London Sustainability Exchange, http://www.lsx.org.uk.

Mapping for Change, http://mappingforchange.org.uk.


All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmallparty/160603/air-pollution.htm and https://twitter.com/airpollAPPG.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Air quality statistics (23 April 2014, updated 21 April 2016), https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/air-quality-statistics.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Effects of Air Pollution, https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/air-pollution/effects.

Environment Agency, Air Pollution, http://apps.environment-agency.gov.uk/wiyby/124274.aspx.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Interactive monitoring networks map, https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/interactive-map.

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), UK-AIR: Air Information Resource, https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk.

Public Health England, Estimates of mortality in local authority areas associated with air pollution (10 April 2014), https://www.gov.uk/government/news/estimates-of-mortality-in-local-authority-areas-associated-with-air-pollution.

Public Health England, Particulate air pollution: health effects of exposure (12 March 2015), https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/particulate-air-pollution-health-effects-of-exposure.

Public Health England, Reports and statements from the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) (17 April 2014), https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/comeap-reports.

Royal Colleges of Physicians and of Paediatrics and Child Health, Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution (23 February 2016), https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/every-breath-we-take-lifelong-impact-air-pollution.

UK Clean Air Act (1993, updated), http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1993/11/contents.

UK Clean Air Act (1956), http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/4-5/52/enacted.

World Health Organisation (WHO), Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health, Factsheet (September 2016), http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs313/en.


The “Urban Sensing” research, including workshop and walk in Deptford, was organised by Jennifer Gabrys, Lara Houston and Helen Pritchard as part of the Citizen Sense project.

Thanks are due to the guest speakers, as well as the workshop participants and community groups who made this event possible. Thanks are also due to the Deptford Lounge and Buster Mantis Creative Space for providing us with venues in which to host the workshop and sensor events.

Thanks to Ashley Simpson for documenting the workshop, to Sarah Garcin, Angeline Ostinelli and Bruno Vanderaert for developing this logbook, to Francesca Perona for translating our particulate designs into 3D-printable format, to Lau Thiamkok for setting up and maintaining the Airsift tool infrastructure, and to Raphael Faeh for designing the user interface for our multiple Citizen Sense websites.

The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n. 313347, “Citizen Sensing and Environmental Practice: Assessing Participatory Engagements with Environments through Sensor Technologies.”

For more information on the Citizen Sense research project, see citizensense.net.