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Elite pigeons with sensor backpacks to monitor London air pollution

Plume Labs

A team of specially-trained pigeons are being enlisted to measure London's air pollution as part of a new DigitasLBi and Twitter-backed study from Plume Labs.

The often-reviled “rats of the sky” could repair their tarnished reputation with the Pigeon Patrol program created by British company Plume Labs. The tech firm, which helps consumers control their exposure to air pollution, has partnered with DigitasLBi to launch a three day comprehensive study.

Using a flock of ten elite pigeons wearing tiny vests with pollution sensors strapped on them the study will measure the nitrogen dioxide levels in the air and tweet the results out on from the @PigeonAir Twitter handle.

London residents curious about the levels of pollution in their area can tweet at the Pigeon Air handle to request a reading in a specified area of the city.

Plume Labs have also launched a microsite, where users can view a live map of the pigeons’ flights, learn about air pollution and its health risks, find out more about the pigeons and download the Plume Air mobile app.

The campaign is also encouraging Londoners to join the Air Patrol, by becoming beta testers for a wearable version of Plume Labs’ air pollution measuring device.

Plume Labs’ chief executive, Romain Lacombe, said: “Air pollution is a huge environmental health issue, killing nearly 10,000 people every year in London alone.

“Putting air sensors on the back of pigeons goes beyond raising awareness of this problem and helps Londoners understand the impact of pollution in an accessible, tangible and immediate way.”

Discussing DigitasLBi’s involvement in the project Lacombe said the marketing and tech agency would be “helping to recruit beta testers who will be the first to access our devices, to build a collaborative, human-powered air quality monitoring network across London".

Pierre Duquesnoy, creative director at DigitasLBi, said the Pigeon Air Patrol campaign “is a perfect example of how data combined with creative storytelling can raise awareness of a serious health and environmental issue".

Twitter’s head of creative agency development, Helen Lawrence, commented: “Over the last 10 years Twitter has been used in ways that we would never have imagined - rivers that Tweet when the water level rises, sharks that Tweet when they're swimming near shore and now pigeons that Tweet live pollution information. Real time information, direct to your mobile is hugely useful, but add pigeons into that mix and you've got something really powerful.

Air Patrol will be supported by Promoted Tweets as well as outreach activity to relevant influencers on Twitter. Early readings in the study have shown high levels of pollution in Westminster and moderate toxicity levels in Central London in general.

Tony Connelly

I cover media, marketing and sponsorship news within the sports industry. This not only includes breaking news but writing feature pieces with insights from experts in the sports marketing world.

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