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NatureInterface > No.08 > P028-031 [Japanese]

Aiming at Environmental Information Service for Citizen -- Katsuhiko Honjyo

Toward Environmental Information Service for Citizen


Environmental Information Sharing Laboratory Group

NTT Lifestyle and Environment Technology Laboratories

Global warming, the deletion of the ozone layer, acid rain, increase of waste, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, dioxin, air pollution, and water pollution. In order to solve these environmental problems, we are required to take the problems seriously and make ultimate efforts to avoid passing down negative inheritance to the future generations. However, as those environmental problems are expanded over a long period of time in a large scale, people have a difficulty in feeling a direct threat. That is one of the reasons why they pay a little attention to the environmental problems.

NTT Energy and Environment Systems Laboratories have focused on a research on Environmental IT from the viewpoint of utilization of IT for environmental conservation. Research and development of Living Environmental Information Networks are moving forward with our own slogan, °»if you can see it, it can change°…, and °»if you can get to know it, it can change°… (Figure 1). This °»Living Environment Information Networks°… aims to distribute living and environmental information such as distribution of animals and plants, pollen forecast, domestic recycling information and civil activities of environmental NGO, which are all taken from sensing networks of rivers and the atmosphere.

I would like to introduce a few examples the contents of research and development promoted in NTT Energy and Environment Systems Laboratories so the citizens acquire the knowledge of environment and realize a comfortable lifestyle.

The Future Image of Urban Environmental Assessment

The first example describes a system related to the assessment that gives indicators to the citizen so that they can take appropriate actions corresponding to the local environmental information. Although air pollution caused by exhaust fumes is a controversial issue, we do not have a simple measuring system to examine the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) or suspected particulate matter (SPM) in the air. Since measurement equipment used by local government is large-sized, its installation locations are limited and there are not many measuring spots. In order to take more detailed measurement of air pollution level effectively, we have agreed that many small sensors should be installed and connected by networks.

Using nanotechnology, we have developed miniature NO2 sensors that have ultra-high sensitivity and a NO2 sensing network system, which makes multi-point monitoring possible by connecting the sensors all together (Fig. 2). The sensors work on battery and are mobile as they rely on wireless communication. By using the sensors, it is now possible to measure the distribution of NO2 in local regions. We also take a notice of the importance to have good simulation technology as well as the sensing technology using GIS (Geographic Information System) for assessments of the atmospheric environment.

Noise and offensive odors are also important issues of the environmental assessment. The Roadway Noise Evaluation System using GIS has been developed in NTT Energy and Environment Systems Laboratories. Conventionally, noise was measured at points such as intersections; therefore, the real situations on roadsides were often different from measurements taken. But with the new system, it is possible to evaluate the noise at fixed points in particular places. In the fields like this, the assessment system using GIS will be an important subject. We need to examine possible applications of atmospheric environmental monitoring, simulations, and GIS for the traffic control system, detailed environmental assessment service, and environmental education methods.

Citizen°«s Participation as the Key to the Environmental Information Sharing

The second example is a system, in which citizens can share the environmental information through events they actively participate (Fig.3). This system is particularly effective when citizen°«s groups or environmental NPOs plan events through which they attempt to observe local environment. This system uses °»Electric Field Notes°…, which can be described as an electronic version of a °»Field Note°… that children use for field observation.

Environmental information means more than mere sensed information. All things induced by contact with the natural environment such as photographs of surroundings, the number of insects, distribution of plants, and impressions children have through the activities are all considered as the information. The photographs, findings, and positional information are transmitted from participants°« mobile terminals to environmental homepage server through the Internet and the data is shared with other citizens as environmental information on map.

In environmental research by NPO members in Shiga Prefecture, results of analysis on water quality, inhabitation of plants and animals, the research procedure, and the members°« walking record (obtained from GPS) were all posted on a homepage as environmental GIS. It is expected to increase public awareness of environmental problems by giving citizens more opportunities to the nature through events like this and share environmental information.

Evolution of Pollen Forecast

The last example is a system for citizens to comfortably coexist with nature. Recently, it has been said that one in ten Japanese people suffers from hay fever and its symptoms are perceived even as bad conditions that naturally occur. Pollen forecast is based on the number of pollen particles that fall from cedar trees in a day and experts use microscopes to count the number of them. Weather conditions such as temperature and wind velocity are then taken into consideration to produce pollen forecast using their sense and experience. We can, therefore, predict specific time and make geographically detailed forecast. We have developed the system for pollen forecast as a mechanism in which we circulate our living information obtained in a daily life.

This system consists of pollen sensors and an information center that runs simulations. Pollen sensors installed near cedar forest, which generates pollen, measure the number of pollen particles. The Pollen Information Center analyzes pollen outback based on a report on the estimated bloom season and weather information such as wind velocity, temperature, and humidity. Then they produce detailed pollen forecasts by conducting simulations on pollen dispersion as well as considering the value of pollen measured by the pollen sensor. We are operating trial service that provides current pollen condition and pollen forecasts up to 2days ahead through the Internet and i-mode by installing pollen sensors at a dozen of points in Kanto area (Fig.4). We intend to develop a Living Environment Information System that combines not only pollen reports but also other information that can be forecast.

We have introduced some examples of research and development activities with environmental information sharing system for citizen at NTT Energy and Environmental Systems Laboratories. We would like to keep working toward realization of the Living Environment Information Network, which brings innovative changes to citizen°«s lifestyle.

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