Finding Europe with Lights – a pan-european Internet of Things installation

One of the reasons why i wanted to have this cellular tracker was a proposal i made to the founders of re:publica – the biggest web- and blogger conference in Berlin, that takes place on May 5th to 7th this year. As i read that they are putting it under the motto “finding europe” this year something immediately jumped into my mind: You cannot find Europe in 2015 without the Internet of Things!

So i made my proposal to distribute 28 color-sensors across all european member-states* and let them measure light information and upload that into the internet (yes, my ubidots installation). And put 28 RGB-Lamps on the ground at the event, that are connected to the sensors and display their color-information. This would offer a way to “find europe” by sensing the different color-informations from these countries, see where the sun is shining at the moment and which country is in the darkness earlier than the other etc.


Well, they said yes, do it. Wow. So i heated up the production of sensors, the finalization (and production) of Ardufona (which will be in Shenzen by Seeedstudio) and the production of some nice, hand-made lamps with a bottom made out of concrete. Here you can see how we are engraving the city-name where the lamp belongs to with a laser:

There is a website that gives more information on the project and has some nice pictures of the lamps and the sensors as well.

We got some nice press-coverage about the project already, Make-magazine Germany covered it, the Adafruit-Blog posted it and a lot of traffic and applications came in. This really was a blast already, but the project has just begun.

At the moment we are trying to get all member-states in with at least one application to host a sensor per country – you can follow this and many other aspects of the project on it’s Facebook-Page. As i am writing this post 20 out of the 28 EU-states applied already, some of the countries with a two-digit number of applications from individuals, maker-spaces, companies and other projects. This is really amazing. And it already gave me a very concrete feeling about the current state of Europe, and what digital could mean to it. For instance, Malta does not have a single Maker-Space at the moment and it seems to be very hard to reach anybody over there. Other countries, most of the other countries do have maker-spaces, even in smaller cities and sometimes surrounded by an impressive crowd – check Radiona as an example, a Zagreb based Space from the youngest EU-memberstate Croatia – what a beautiful webpage they have!

Once the sensors are being shipped to their destinations, you can track their journey through this interactive app (scroll down), it also shows the current color-values for each sensor.

I am so proud and excited about this! Not just because of the technology that is involved. My main motivation behind it is two-fold – i love the internet of things and it’s revolutionary potential for a better society, of course being aware of the huge risks that are coming alongside with it. But i truly believe, that the internet as such and the internet of things in special can be utilized to make our society more connected, more aware of each other and a better civil society. Internet of Things can be more than tracking of air-pollution, parking slots and traffic density. It can even be more than tracking ourselfs, our heart rate, runs and eating behavior. If we get it right, it can mean so much more, presence for example. Presence can mean a lot in a world where things are getting more global, more digital and old institutions and principles less reliable. Presence can mean being in contact with that Makerspace in Zagreb, build strong digital ties between people that share a vision and believes etc. – Finding Europe with Lights is a lot about presence.

The other reason is the political vision behind the European Union. Nationalism has caused so many bad things in history and the idea of a European Society is such a great and peace-driving one, that it deserves every support we can organize. I know this sounds naive and like a dreamer, especially in these days. I even know that the current setup of the EU is far from fulfilling that vision, sure. But that’s the reason for this project, call it a dream: A connected civil society from Lisbon to Helsinki, connected with an open-internet and without mass-suveillance. Finding Europe with Lights.

— Update —-

Just as i posted this i got another application from Greece – let me quote the reason these guys gave why they would be a good host for the sensor:

Impact Hub Athens is a social enterprise which belongs in a universal community and supports innovative ideas which aim to change the society and the world! It is located in the centre of Athens, the capital of Greece and the core of business life and action. Therefore is the perfect host for interesting efforts like this.


*yes i intentionally am talking about _the_ EU, the European Union of the 28 member-states, headquartered in Brussels (the Brussels sensor btw will be installed inside an office in the European commission) – not because i think they offer the only solution that is worth considering, but i indeed think they do offer the best political implementation of a civil and open society in this geographical region at the moment. But also intentionally it is possible to apply as a sensor-host for the project even if your country is not a “member-state” at the moment or even in the near future. We already have one non-EU application in, which is Switzerland, great! It will be one outcome of this project to see, whether more of these are coming…

About holadiho
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