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​Technology to improve people’s relationship with food, water, air, and health

In an interview, Huw Pohlner discusses the potential for technology and the connection economy to engage communities in environmental monitoring and data sharing. This article provides some examples of technologies out there that could be applied. This is, in no way, a comprehensive list. What else is out there that could be used to connect people and share environmental data?

As technological capabilities expand, it follows that we are finding ways to use technology to support people’s relationships to the world around them, including food, water, and air, and their relationship to overall human health.

Technology for food safety

One example of technology supporting people’s relationships with food, and food safety, is the Baidu smart chopsticks (see image above).

Huw Pohlner, a multidisciplinary water resource management and Asia engagement specialist with water advisory firm Aither, explains the device as “a pair of chopsticks that have been developed to automatically detect levels of various toxins or carcinogens in food, so that they could automatically verify the fact that your dumpling actually had real meat in it as opposed to some other kind of substitute.”

As a prototype product, the Baidu chopsticks address some of the facets of food contamination, a common issue in China.

Technology for water safety

There are several smartphone-based solutions for water safety.

One was engineered by Alison Bick in 2007. With her app and a device with a camera, users can take a photo of water exposed to fluorescent light or inside a device mixed with chemicals. The app analyses the photo and determines if the water is safe to drink.

Products like the SAM-1 SmartAquameter combine more traditional water metering technology with smartphone capabilities for ease of data reading and sharing.

Technology for air quality

Technology for testing air quality exists in a similar fashion.

Some apps simply send air quality forecasts and updates from pre-existing monitors to a user’s smartphone, while others go further into testing the air itself. Personal environmental monitors can be worn by individuals, streaming air quality information and other data.

Using technology to improve human health

Air, water, and food quality all impact on human health. The higher quality air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, the fewer toxins we are exposed to and the fewer health issues we encounter. All of these previously mentioned technologies, along with solutions that are still being developed and released, give us more information about the world around us and allow us to avoid contamination and pollution.

This technology also has the potential to capture data on a larger scale, and if researchers and policymakers tap into this information, they may be able to get a clearer picture of the quality of air, water, and food around the world. This could potentially enable more informed decision making, allowing for the more effective targeting of research and project funds to understand and address human and environmental health.

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