city senses · 10. January 2010, 23:35

Pachube only made sense to me when I heard Adam and Usman discussing it last year. I’d been derailed by its use for energy monitoring – something interesting to yourself and possibly useful to yourself, but not interesting at a public level, unless aggregated with a significant take-up.

There are a few things I’d like to sense, track, record and analyse.

london buses
an 87 and a 77 lurk in the distance

The first is detecting the buses that pass by my front door so I know generally how long I’ll have to wait for the next one. A selfish act, yes, but one that has a useful public shadow when broadcast: magnified and multiplied when others record, share and analyse similar data too (of course, TfL could just offer up iBus feeds, but I’ll believe that when I scrape it).

Similarly, I’d like to track number of pedestrians and number of cars. Everything is time and place stamped, allowing analysis, filtering, and city sense making.

Nike+ / USB

Next I’d like to wire up Nike+ to Pachube. Nike+ is a sensor that fits in your shoe that, basically, transmits constantly and publicly whenever you’re walking and running. I’ve got the Nike+ sensor talking to an Arduino, thanks to the SparkFun breakout board, but I’m limited in time and programming ability to go any further (also, any more info that a basic ID is locked up in readable but undecipherable chatter between iPod and Nike+ receiver). I’m interested in the semi-anonymous: personalised IDs detected in public that make no sense until you (as holder of the ID) plug it into the system and sees what in the network lights up or remembers.

pachube.apps | Data Logger | connecting environments, patching the planet

Another leap in my understanding of the power of bottom-up sensor networks was the launch of the Pachube logger iPhone app. This lets you create and update data feeds manually from your iPhone. It lets you take the idea of Daytum, and plug it into a standardised data sharing system. Most importantly, each update is dripping in metadata; time and place.

This reminds me of Jones, Insam and Taylor’s herejustnow, which, with iPhone ubiquity and pachube now seems a lot more possible and usable than when originally conjured. It lets you say that you’ve just seen or heard something – most importantly time and date stamped. This creates maps, similar I guess to #uksnow, but for anything and everything.

I’m excited that it’s now possible to wire up a city nervous system without any government or authority, just mass enthusiasm and participation.


As a teenager I devised (but never built) a system of mirrors that would allow me to see far enough down the road to observe the appearance of the number 4 bus. This would have given me time to leap out of bed and get to the bus stop in time to get to school.

Then when Countdown arrived, I always wanted to wire it into my house.

Timo    13.01.10    #