Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade by Huachen Xin monitors and visualises air quality in cities

Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade installation visualises air quality data in realtime

Chinese designer Huachen Xin has created Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade, an installation that monitors and visualises the air pollution levels in cities.

Pollution Ranger is a self-powered air quality monitor that attaches to the roof of a taxi or Uber car and collects data on pollution levels.

This information is then relayed to Smog Shade, a transparent disc in a circular aluminium frame that darkens and becomes opaque if higher levels of pollution are detected in the city.

"People have the right to know the genuine air quality that surrounds by them," Xin told Dezeen.

"Based on this data, they could choose whether they need to move in or out of where they currently live, especially people who have lung diseases," he added.

"City managers could also use the data as clues to find out realtime pollution, for example, or track illegals emissions during the night."

The installation has been shortlisted for Dezeen Awards 2020 in the installation design category.

An air quality monitor is fixed to the top of a taxi cab
A device on the roof of taxis monitors air quality

Xin, who is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, decided to create this realtime data visualisation system in response to the air pollution situation in China. Some cities, including Beijing, are blanketed in smog caused by pollution that can cause serious respiratory illnesses.

"Air pollution has become a major issue in China and poses a threat to Chinese public health," said the designer. "The only air-quality data that people can access is the government-published data and the authenticity of it is doubtable."

Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade by Huachen Xin monitors and visualises air quality in cities
The colour and transparency changes as it receives data

The problem with government data, explained Xin, is that the state air quality monitors are deliberately located where the air is cleaner, such as in parks, on rooftops, or even on islands in the middle of lakes. This leaves people without any access to accurate information about the air they breathe.

"Lack of alternative sources of verified national and local data not only violates the basic rights of citizens but also serves as an abuse of power," said Xin.

According to a study in the Lancet, an estimated 1.24 million deaths in China could be attributed to air pollution in 2017.

Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade by Huachen Xin monitors and visualises air quality in cities
The installation makes air quality data public

Pollution Ranger will give more accurate readings about the severity of air pollution because it is fixed to cars as they drive along busy city roads.

Placing Smog Shade in public spaces can then give people a quick and simple visual update on the air quality at that time and place, so they can react accordingly.

Two layers of polarizing film are held in the frame and one rotates 90 degrees to change the level of brightness.

Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade by Huachen Xin monitors and visualises air quality in cities
The darker the disc, the worse the air pollution

Xin has also designed an app that would allow users to select a city and read the air quality data for different locations that day.

"This installation creates alternative ways for people to gather and access 'natural' air quality data," said Xin.

"It's a way to visualise this data in public spaces to create social impact and put pressure on the inaccurate official datasets."

He hopes that people might also change their behaviour once they see the pollution levels for the say and opt to take public transport rather than drive.

The app for Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade by Huachen Xin monitors and visualises air quality in cities
An app allows users to view local air pollution data

The installation is currently a prototype and has been tested in London and Shanghai.

Many designers have responded to the problem of worsening air pollution. IKEA has made a set of curtains that purifies the air inside a house, and design studio NotAnotherOne makes wearable air pollution monitors that test and track local levels.

Daan Roosengaarde has designed a bicycle that filters and cleans the air as it is pedalled and made the Smog Free Tower in Beijing, which takes in polluted air and releases clean air.

More images and plans

Pollution Ranger and Smog Shade by Huachen Xin monitors and visualises air quality in cities
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