Event Recap
Measuring Personal Environmental Exposures

16 Nov 2016
Event Organizer: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions
Event Link
Tagged as: Attending, Washington, DC

Measuring Personal Environmental Exposures explored the implications of increasingly broad access to environmental exposure data.

PLASTARC’s interest in this event was focused on collecting data about our environment and measuring its parts as a way of understanding it better as a whole—and ultimately, improving it. This has long been our approach to optimizing architecture for human factors. Most recently, in fall 2016, we were pleased to present our work on transforming the building industry and health outcomes through social data-supported design at a similar but more broadly-based event, the Bloomberg Data For Good Exchange.

At Measuring Personal Environmental Exposures, we found Dr. Edmund Seto’s talk—”Emerging Capabilities in Personal Environmental Exposure Measurement: What’s Out There and What Can We Learn from Them?”—particularly relevant to our work. Seto makes a point of using low-cost sensor systems to measure environmental hazards like air pollution. Making sensors cheaper makes them more plentiful, and when they’re more plentiful, we have more data. (This increase in data volume helps to offset the potentially low quality of the inexpensive tools.) Also, Seto works with a variety of different communities. Because PLASTARC believes everyone should have a workplace that works for them, we also found resonance with this community-oriented aspect of his work.

Many of the event’s talks focused on applications for the large amounts of personal environmental exposure data now available; the challenges of geolocating—which works well at the urban scale, but not in interiors (for example, a satellite can find you if you’re standing outdoors on a city block, but has more difficulty when you’re on the tenth floor of a twenty-story building); and the potential misuses of sensors, including privacy concerns. These and other facets of location intelligence are of great interest to PLASTARC, as we believe they’re shaping the future of business intelligence. The next generation of retail, hospitality, and eventually workplace environments will be developed with “place” as their driver more than ever before. (Read more about “What Location Intelligence Means for the Workplace” in this PLASTARC contribution to Work Design.)

The Standing Committee on Emerging Science for Environmental Health Decisions was formed to facilitate communication among government, industry, environmental groups, and the academic community about scientific advances that can be used to address environmental impacts on human health. As such, much of the event’s other programming was devoted to discussing communication best practices between those groups.