The Smart Citizen Kit: Harnessing Citizen Science (Innovation Type: Community Organized)



Innovation Type: Community Organized

Urban challenge

Idealistic smart city visions can be overwhelming for governments looking to transform their communities. They are often associatedwith costly IoT sensors and technocratic experts at the helm – but when citizens are equipped with the tools and skills to participate indata collection, thousands or millions of data points could potentially be leveraged by city researchers. With this vision in mind, theBarcelona Fab Lab innovation centre set out to develop a citizen science ecosystem to complement professional environmentaldatabases in Europe. With urban dwellers increasingly at the hands of contemporary urban health issues that were poorly documented –especially pollution and associated difficulties with breathing, allergies, and immune responses – citizen data was seen as pivotal tocampaigning for better government action based on evidence. 

Innovation process 

The Smart Citizen Project was first envisioned at the Fab Lab Barcelona, by researchers who believed in the power of data in spurringgreater political participation by ordinary citizens. The Smart Citizen Kit and accompanying data map interface was first piloted inAmsterdam in 2014, before it was reiterated and re-released, this time internationally.


The Smart Citizen Kit is an open-source hardware device offered to citizens, incorporating low-cost sensors which provide citizens withthe ability to measure various environmental indicators. At the heart of the Kit is the Urban Sensor Board, containing modular hardwarecomponents which measure air temperature, relative humidity, noise, barometric pressure, ambient light, and particulate matter (PM).Citizens place the Kit in an outdoor location of their choice – such as a balcony, windowsill, or atop a building – and it detects andstreams the environmental data using WiFi to is a custom crowdsourced digital map of environmentaldata collected via the use of Smart Citizen Kits – not just in Amsterdam, but now around the world. The Kit has been developed withreproducibility in mind, ensuring that it remains low-cost and accessible even as it scales in use. The Urban Sensor Board is also able toaccommodate the addition of a variety of third party sensors to measure other environmental indicators, such as the Smart CitizenStation, a full solution for low-cost air pollution monitoring. With these extendable capabilities, the Kit serves not only as a sensordevice, but as a potential base solution for more complex urban challenges. 


Having first piloted the Smart Citizen Kit in Amsterdam with 100 participants/kits in 2014 for three months, the Kit has since beenfurther developed by the Barcelona Fab Lab. Its second iteration was again piloted, this time as part of the European Making SenseProject, and is now available for purchase worldwide. There are now over 1900 unique kits around the world contributing to data map, and some 9000 registered users. 

Key takeaways

  • When equipped with the right tools, citizens are often committed to assist with data collection and proactivedecision making. When the Amsterdam pilot was first reviewed in 2014, it was apparent that the citizens who wereoffered kits were enthusiastic and consistent in their measurements of the living environment, albeit room forimprovement in the technical details of the Kit.
  • Visualisation is a valuable tool. For those less familiar with statistics and data, the ability to visualise trends incollected data and aggregate measurements is critical in ensuring that ordinary citizens too are able to use data tobetter inform future actions. Again, when the Amsterdam pilot was first reviewed, a visualisation of the noisemeasurements made was appended to the platform and better communicated citizens’ findings in this area.

Learn more about Smart Urban Innovations from around the world in the UNDP Smart Urban Innovations Handbook:

Download the full PDF of the case study from the attached document.