Pigeons are omnipresent in London. And if you’re in the area, don’t be surprised if you see pigeons sporting tiny, light-as-a-feather backpacks there! These backpack carrying small grey birds are performing a valuable public service for three days. No, they aren’t delivering letters like the olden times like you may think! These birds, supplied by Brian Woodhouse, a well-known U.K. pigeon fancier are trained racing pigeons, who will return to their regular lives on the completion of their mission. This interesting project is a Twitter campaign to monitor the city’s quality of air. This pigeon initiative is the brainchild of digital marketing agency DigitasLBi, which provides SEO, PPC and social CRM among other services. It is launched by Plume Labs and London Design Festival winners, Matt Daniels and Pierre Duquesnoy.

The backpacks sported by the pigeons are equipped with lightweight pollution-monitoring sensors that measure volatile compounds and levels of nitrogen dioxide and ozone, which are the gases mainly responsible for harmful urban air pollution. The backpacks are attached to little mesh vests that fit over the pigeons’ bodies and leave their wings free to fly. The project relies on Twitter to connect residents with these pigeons to get air quality information specific to their location in real time. Londoners who tweet their location to @PigeonAir will receive an instant response from one of the pigeons on the level of pollution in their specific area.  A live map of the pigeons’ flight paths can also be seen at the Pigeon Air Patrol website and users can download the Plume Air app for more information and advice on how to avoid air pollution.

This project aims to create awareness among Londoners about the impact of pollution in an accessible, tangible and immediate way. The campaign also aims to motivate people to sign up as beta testers for its new wearable pollution monitor, with the overall aim to build a human-powered air-quality monitoring network across London.

What makes this campaign noteworthy is the manner in which it combines creative storytelling with data to create awareness regarding serious environmental issues and how it can impact the health of individuals. Due to the novelty of the idea, it has won the “Solve a Problem” category in Twitters #PoweredByTwitter competition. The campaign also aims to start other Pigeon Patrols in other parts of the world. Finally, tweeting has gone back to its rightful owners: the birds!



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