WiFi birdhouses power Amsterdam “smart cities”

tree wifi birdhouse on tree in Amsterdam street

As part of a unique Smart Cities initiative, Amsterdam is tackling its pollution problem by installing with treehouses that emit free WiFi when air pollution levels are healthy.

The scheme, known as ‘Tree WiFi’ is hard to miss walking the tree-lined canals of the Dutch city, as LEDs on the birdhouses illuminate green to highlight to passers-by when pollution levels are at a reasonable level. It is hoped the project will find success in offering an incentive to making environmentally-friendly decisions which keep air pollution down.

The WiFi device attached to a tree features sensors that measure air pollution levels released from combustion processes within a 100 metre radius (around 325 feet). Air pollution data is recorded every evening and sent from the birdhouse to a central server for analysis.

Results then trigger internet connectivity at the bird house, with information on how to improve air quality replacing standard internet access if air quality is poor. 

The program – the brainchild of local designer Joris Lam – was instigated by Amsterdam’s recent a D+ ranking for air quality across 11 urban areas of the city in 2015, largely on behalf of vehicle emissions. 

"I wanted to make something that measures air pollution locally and also makes the issue visible in an understandable, human-centric way," said Lam.

He adds that he hopes that their appearance will get people to think about the environment:  "Air quality monitoring stations from the municipality look like anonymous strange little buildings with bells and whistles sticking out of them that don't make you any wiser.”

The rise in “smart cities” was covered in our detailed report of the Smart Building Conference 2015 at ISE earlier this year.