Inhabitants of the Grenoble metropolis taking part in the "la captothèque" experimental scheme, tested in Grenoble, Haute-Savoie and Clermont-Ferrand this winter, met on July 3rd at the Espace Air-Climat-Energie in Saint-Martin-D'hères to discuss the various results of the Checkbox citizen experiment.

After the Mobicit'air experiment, here is CheckBox: an experiment in the continuity of the first one allowing about thirty citizens from Grenoble to experiment the measurement of air quality. Thus, from January to March, the 30 people selected for this experiment, financed by the ADEME's PRIMEQUAL project and supported by Grenoble Metropolis and the Region, were able to borrow micro-sensors free of charge to measure fine particles and analyze the air they breathe in their daily lives.

This was enough to create a dialogue between the experimenters but especially in the public space, especially on the impact of wood heating.

Grenoble, a driving force for citizen measurement of air quality

Seeing air quality micro-sensors wandering around the Grenoble metropolitan area is going to become a habit: after the first Mobicit'air experiment, this new iteration called CheckBox, organized by Atmo Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes - accompanied by the CNRS, science-po Grenoble and, has enabled us to sketch out a little more of what the citizen observatory might look like in the future. Once again this year, numerous measurement sessions were carried out by the experimenters, equivalent to more than 700 hours of cumulative measurements. In total, more than 2.5 M data were collected, a strong potential for an increased observatory!



The micro-sensor and its smartphone application allowed the experimenters to measure the air quality in their direct environment - photo: Lucas Frangella

And even if, in the Grenoble conurbation, air pollution is already a widely integrated issue and the levels of knowledge are supposedly higher than elsewhere, our experimenters were still surprised by their discoveries. Notably on the presence of pollution at altitude: "Living 800m in the mountains, I realize that we are also affected by pollution on certain days. We didn't imagine that we would be concerned to this extent," testified one experimenter. So much so that one feels a touch of disappointment: "I was interested to see if there was a real difference between the city and where I live, in the country... and somewhere, it's a bit disappointing to see that my little village could be as polluted as the big city of Grenoble". The designated person in charge seems astonished by wood heating: "I'm convinced of the impact of the combustion engine, and I was aware of the impact of wood heating, but not as much as that".

 I was aware of the impact of wood heating, but not as much as that.

But beware, the impact of inefficient wood heating was not the only subject discussed that evening: correlation between fog and air quality, identification of the inversion layer, odors and pollution, impact of road traffic, agricultural burning... so many subjects discussed in the light of the measurements made by the experimenters.


From citizen participation... to citizen transformation

Precisely, the fact of measuring oneself, and understanding the air quality phenomena on our territories, encourages participants to transform themselves, and even to go beyond:

"The good thing about the sensor is that it raises people's awareness. You realize what you're breathing and you apply it directly to yourself. And that's important, that's the only way we can improve the collective consciousness: through individual consciousness". And following the example of the conclusions of the Mobicit'air project, here again we see a great propensity to carry the message: "[The discovery of the phenomena of pollution, editor's note] made such an impression on me that I informed the whole village... and it was very well received!".

Citizen participation, which therefore leads to a transformation... this is the very ambition of the Captotheque system, which seeks to provide tools for those who wish to measure, understand and get involved in action to improve air quality in their area.


During the final restitution of the Grenoble experiment, the testimonies on the change in individual behavior, thanks to the micro-sensor, are numerous.


An experiment to imagine the future of the observatory

For Atmo Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, the experience also brings a sum of tracks to improve its observatory by integrating the citizen via the micro-sensor. For even if the idea of multiplying the measurement points thanks to the micro-sensors seems nice, the questions remain numerous for the regional association: How does the citizen appropriate the micro-sensor? How are individual air quality measurements interpreted? What methods are necessary for a better interpretation of the data? What is the contribution of the micro-sensor in the global reflection on behavior change? 

Some of the answers were provided by the experimenters under the watchful eye of sociologist Stéphane Labranche, affiliated to Science Po, who is in charge of analyzing the contribution of this type of experiment for citizens but also the modalities of success for the observatory. These conclusions will be the subject of a report and will feed into solutions for supporting citizens or partners in the future.


Checkbox, the suite

The CheckBox project will continue next winter in two neighborhoods/cities in the Grenoble metropolitan area to promote citizen measurement of air quality and share questions using collaborative tools.

To achieve this, the Captotheque system, which allows the free loan of micro-sensors and provides a platform for data visualization and exchanges between participants, will be adapted and improved based on feedback from the experimenters this winter 2019.

At the end of the year, a new and improved version will be released and tested in new partner territories in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.