SCENT - Smart Toolbox for Engaging Citizens into a People-Centric Observation Web
The project designed, developed and implemented a people-centric observation web, formulated on the basis of using low-cost, portable sensors and innovative applications. The SCENT toolbox offers various capabilities involving crowdsourcing and serious gaming mechanisms towards enabling, incentivising and increasing the involvement of citizens as individuals and/or citizen groups/associations in the process of environmental monitoring. By using their smartphones and portable sensors, citizens can take images of land cover / land use while walking around in their city or the countryside, report events that may affect floods (e.g. river obstacles) and measure water level, flow velocity and soil moisture, without complex or bulky equipment. They are doing this in a playful manner, through a game of ‘catching’ animated animals in their surroundings and collecting points. On top of that, novel frameworks are employed to ensure the management, quality control and interoperability of citizen-generated data, coupled with machine learning frameworks that extract valuable information from the collected resources and thus lead to better use of available data, repositories and in-situ monitoring systems. Last but not least, apart from extending the in-situ infrastructure with citizen-sourced observations, the use of the latter was demonstrated in the context of creating flood models and land cove / use maps of enhanced characteristics that can improve decision making. Additionally, the value of the SCENT toolbox was demonstrated in two regions in real but diverse examples where flood monitoring is of great importance. The first region is the wetland of Danube Delta in Romania, where flooding is a necessary and beneficial part of maintaining the ecosystem, and the second is the Kifisos River basin around the urban landscape of Athens in Greece, where flooding is a major problem for the local communities. Various citizen-science campaigns (10 in total) were conducted during 2018 & 2019 in these regions. These field campaigns were organised in different periods in both pilots covering in total 11 months, while focusing on themes of interest to the local communities and the policy makers such as the collection of LC/LU elements, river parameters and soil measurements. The objective of the campaigns was to collect valuable environmental information, at frequent time intervals, that could be further analysed and used. More than 700 volunteers participated in the field campaigns, testing, evaluating and validating the SCENT toolbox, while also contributing with a significant amount of 24200+ environmental resources in both pilot areas. It should be noted, that SCENT has at the same time established an active online community, involving, as of August 2019, 1130+ active registered users of its public facing applications (SCENT Explore, SCENT Collaborate, SCENT Measure, https://scent-project.eu/scent-toolbox).
Europe has invested a significant amount of resources in infrastructure and services in order to achieve an autonomous, accurate and comprehensive Earth observation capacity. Environmental monitoring systems, such as Copernicus Corine Land Cover, produce a variety of valuable datasets, offered for the entire EU landscape. Yet, the update rate is scarce due to increased costs and timely data validation procedures, while investing in additional in-situ equipment or in maintaining the current infrastructure is unsustainable. Citizen science constitutes an innovative approach of environmental monitoring, capable to complement the existing Earth Observation and in-situ infrastructure with up-to-date information about local ecosystems. The majority of citizens however, both as individuals and as groups quite often feel disengaged from influencing environmental policies, whilst also remain unaware of publicly available information and initiatives. SCENT Citizen Observatory project has created a toolbox (https://scent-project.eu/scent-toolbox) of smart collaborative technologies and applications that aims to engage citizens with environmental monitoring, enabling them to become the ‘eyes’ of the policy makers and local authorities. Citizens are using low-cost equipment to collect various environmental information (land cover/use, river parameters, soil conditions), that are consolidated to improve flood modelling and are offered to the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) in an interoperable way, following common environmental standards (Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards).
How to participate
The SCENT community is continuously increasing even beyond the realization of the citizen-science campaigns and project activities, paving the road for the sustainability and uptake of the project outputs in the context of ongoing and future initiatives. Don't miss the chance to learn more about the SCENT toolbox and how it can be employed for improved environmental monitoring: https://scent-project.eu/scent-toolbox