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Google set to go sensor crazy at I/O, will track air quality, noise levels

Arduino sensors

Anyone attending this year’s Google I/O developers’ conference is set to be part of a massive experiment from the internet giant’s Cloud Platform Developer Relations team.

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Google will be planting Arduino sensors all around the conference venue, measuring everything from ambient temperature to noise levels.

In an official blog post Michael Manoochehri, a developer programs engineer at Google, says that altogether, the sensors network will provide over 4 000 continuous data streams collecting and visualizing ambient data about the conference, such as temperature, humidity, and air quality. “In addition,” he says, “our motes will be able to detect fluctuations in noise level, and some will be attached to footstep counters, to understand collective movement around the conference floor”.

The most interesting trends from the data collected will, in turn, be displayed on several screens around the conference. Once the conference is over, the project’s Cloud Platform code, the Arduino hardware designs, and even the data collected, will be open source and available online.

If Google’s little experiment is a success, it could see a massive change in the way we look at conferences. It might seem a little bit creepy, but within a conference setting, knowing where there’s massive foot traffic, where people might be uncomfortable and battle to talk to each other can only help conference organisers provide a better experience next time around.

Using the technology in conference spaces could also provide models for how it can be applied to the outside world. As Manoochehri notes:

Networked sensor technology is in the early stages of revolutionizing business logistics, city planning, and consumer products. We are looking forward to sharing the Data Sensing Lab with Google I/O attendees, because we want to show how using open hardware together with the Google Cloud Platform can make this technology accessible to anyone.

We imagine that retailers especially would be clamoring for this kind of technology in order to understand how people move around in their shop spaces. The thought of being tracked like that though is bound to raise feelings of creepiness in some.

The one thing mitigating those feelings is that this particular technology can’t track people on an individual basis, instead focusing on what can be learned from the crowd as a whole.

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