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EPA/NIH Challenge Seeks Air Pollution, Physiology Sensor

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Two federal agencies will award a total of $160,000 for sensors that can map air pollution concentrations, but also provide the physiological responses to those pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of National Institutes of Health, are sponsoring the My Air, My Health Challenge with InnoCentive, a crowdsourcing and open-innovation company in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The purpose of the challenge is to provide people wearing the sensor a detailed and personal picture of the air quality encountered at any particular time. The sensor should be portable, and sensitive enough to measure particulates or individual chemicals in the air. The device should also report physiological markers, offering health metrics linked to the scientific literature backing up those metrics.

The agencies say the system should be able to transmit the data collected, with time and location stamps, to a central resource, using current communications technologies and networks. In addition, the design of the device must include input from its target community or population.

“We’re all different, and our bodies react in different ways to pollution and other harmful toxins in our environment,” says NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum. “We believe pairing health researchers with technology innovators will help us get the tools we need for a more complete picture of what people are breathing and how it might affect their health.”

Initial submissions should present a project plan of no more than 15 pages that proposes a prototype design and development plan for the sensor, as well as a proof-of-concept study to validate the prototype. Judges will select four finalists, who will each win $15,000.

Each of the finalists will then develop and test the prototype. Data collected in the proof-of-concept studies will illustrate the accuracy and precision of the raw data and of any processed data produced by the system. Judges will select the one overall winner, which will receive an award of $100,000.

The My Air, My Health Challenge is open to individuals, teams, or businesses with their permanent residences or primary places of business in the United States. Award recipients will need to grant to the sponsoring agencies a non-exclusive license to practice their solutions.

A Webinar to discuss the challenge is scheduled for Tuesday, 19 June at 4:00 pm ET. The deadline for initial submissions of the sensor’s design and development plan is 5 October 2012.

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