What If Lab 2019 – Air Pollution Awareness Project Key Findings and Takeaways

[EN] This written publication also published on Medium.

Prologue and Acknowledgement

In 2018 I moved to Jakarta for work, I was truly fascinated with the Jakarta air pollution. My first day working in Jakarta was so mesmerizing. From the 26th floor, I saw a thick air that I’ve never seen before from the ground. I just realized from the top that it was clear Jakarta is polluted.

Jakarta in September 2018 (by Vivian)

Several months later (October 2018), I found out about the Dutch Design Foundation program What If Lab: The Sustainable Society. From there, I think it is the right chance for me as a designer to take action. Honestly, I do not really know about air pollution before and my team-mate from the Netherlands, named Marleen, either. Therefore, I and Marleen started to talk with the expert to know more about the situation in the policy, solution, technology, and human behavior perspective and find the design opportunities based on our skill and time. We found out that we need to develop on air pollution awareness because in that time the pollution issue has not been raised in the public yet. When people aware, they do not have any idea on what they need to do to prevent and solve the problem. In this project, we designed products named UNMASKED to deliver a message to the public and give them a chance to prevent illness from air pollution and do something for a better city.

This project would not successful without Dutch Design Foundation, Dries van Wagenberg and his team. Thank you for giving me a chance for me to see what I can contribute and what people can benefit from this project. I also want to give many thanks to the expert from Kopernik, Coaction, WALHI, Ami&Amin (Student of Environmental Design Kanazawa University) for sharing thoughts about this issue. People I interviewed randomly on the street. Menara by Kibar co-working space and KREAVI to provide us good place to brainstorming and eat. My dad and my mom who support and helped me making the prototype. Aditya for helping me arrange the mechanism of demo module; Muhamad Adib for helping me making the AR prototype works! You men so cool! Bu Rina Renvile and team for preparing the exhibition panel. Thank you for my friends, my ex-boss, and guest from the symposium and exhibition for spending their time to come and giving me much advice. Thank you for other participants from Indonesia and The Netherlands for your support and inspiration. Last but not least, Marleen Kokke, Dutch Embassy, and Erasmus Huis for arranging the symposium in March 2019 and exhibition in May 2019 and also helping to maintain the prototypes.

Looking into the air pollution problem

In January 2019, Marleen came to Jakarta to see the problem with her own eyes. The sky was clear, but we know it is polluted. As her background designing for healthcare in the Netherlands, she learned how the problem connects with the result. So we had a quick brainstorm in Jakarta before the symposium. A week is a fast journey for us to get well with the problem in the urban area. It is a complicated problem because air pollution has a lot roots of causes. Like never-ending stories and it needs multi-stakeholder collaboration to tackle this problem. Through this project, I and Marleen do some research and went to the street asking random people about their perception of air pollution in order to create a design solution. Here we found out:

1. One of the main cause of air pollution in Jakarta is in transportation (Around 70% based on Kompas). Citizen is very reliant on transportation to commute, many did not use Public Transport effectively. It is very difficult to urge people change their behavior from using personal transport to public transport due to the convenient. We need faster development for public transport. I see that the MRT is helping minimize air pollution recently and it is a good step and helpful for people to commute. Go again for it! Then, we also need the government to support renewable energy usage on transportation which is still in progress. Maybe change from fuel to electric. Just like Beijing did.

(Marleen, 2019)

2. Different area, different types of pollution. Air pollution in Jakarta mostly comes from car exhaust and the industrial area nearby. WALHI said that Bandung even worst in terms of pollution because the geographic bowl-shaped (near the mountains) allows the pollution to stay inside the city for a long time. To be said, Jakarta has better circulation, but make the area nearby worst (like Bogor because the air is moving). However, Jakarta still more polluted due to a large number of residential and business activities rather than Bandung. Can you imagine if Jakarta geographic like Bandung? What will happen? Other things you might know is the rural area near the volcanoes, the particle might bigger than the urban.

3. What the government had done? We analyze that the government had done some solution even it is not that massively impacted to change Jakarta air situation. First, they have made 3 people in 1 car policy but then changed into odd and even number in particular main road (such as Jl. Sudirman). Second, they had built up some parks (if you remembered the RPTRA park). Thirdly, they start to hold Car Free Day which is not that decrease the number of pollution. Even worst, the number of pollution in car free day is the same as the weekdays, just slightly less. So if you do sport or running in the polluted area without a mask, your health might be worse than the people stay at home and do nothing depends on their own body. For WALHI, they suggested for government to take deep action to prevent air pollution, for example creating a law or rule for the company to be more responsible.

4. Air pollution contains different type of gases or particles depends on the causes, in Jakarta mostly CO and PM 2.5 (particle 2.5 micrometers) is dominated the pollution. Other places might be O3 or any other particles. This will affect how we can prevent the particles inhaled by us. Meaning that we need a specific type of mask. Otherwise, we are not preventing pollution from our body. For instance, the green mask which is common in Indonesia is not compatible to use in Jakarta because it can not filter the PM 2.5 or any kinds of particles. Meanwhile, many people still use it for a long time. My suggestion is to use the PM 2.5 reusable mask (you can find it in an online shop or AC* Hardware). But to be honest, I had friends who learn about the microparticle in Kanazawa University, said that there is a smaller particle than PM 2.5 that poisonous (they called it PM 0.1). Well, I am not sure yet. Hope after they finished their study about air particle and its filter, we can get their updates on it.

common mask in Jakarta, people use this green mask frequently but it doesn’t effective for some situations (image source google)

5. The current information channels are not informative enough and they don’t use it. Many people lack knowledge about the air pollution level of dangers. They can not distinguish which one is good or which one is dangerous. We do an experiment to test out if people know the Jakarta air situation using the toolkit we designed. When we test out, the real air situation was at a moderate level, but the answer is varied. They also not sure about using the mask. Some people said they use the mask all day, some said they not used to.

We use this toolkit asking people what is the current pollution situation in Jakarta and when they need to use the mask (Marleen, 2018)

6. The current information board is not communicative yet, because it is too scientific. On the other hand, citizen really needs to know what they can do when the pollution is at a certain level. The numbers and colours for the indicator are also uncommon for Indonesian. The colour standard is differed because the existing panel showing the black, red, yellow, blue, and green. Based on WHO there is the standard for the colouring (the second image). If you realize the trash bin colour in Indonesia also differs which resulting bias to the end-user.

7. Rain as pollution washer, but will not effective if the gas exhaust still emitted. We can see the table below show that high pollution occurs in the rain season. So, don’t really depend on the rain if we do not do anything about this issue. The clear sky sometimes does not determine if that day is healthy.

8. Lastly, the sensor for air pollution is produced anywhere now. These days, it is not that difficult to find sensors. There are some types of sensors like big sensors and also handy sensors with a different mechanism. There are some types of how data can be found, using filter or sensors. Most common is using sensors but sometimes fails (depends on where it put and how it works). With this data, we can easily know what is the situation nearby. For me, air data has now become an important rather than the temperature. Do you agree?

Low cost sensor from Japan (Marleen, 2019)

What if… design can help create a feeling of urgency and empowerment to citizens, to help them understand the impact they can have and involve them as changemakers?


Based on our findings on quick research, we found that not all of people aware of pollution. Meaning, people can not distinguish between polluted air and unpolluted air. Because of that, some people do not take any action, some also do the extreme action.

People mindset about their behavior and perception (Marleen&Vivian, 2019 adapted from Prochaska, DiClemente)

Our Experiment:
What if you could see the air quality data around you?

Our product, UNMASKED takes local sensor data and presents it in a clear and engaging way. Using the metaphor of particles in the air, real-time pollution levels are broadcast in the street in public displays. Other than that, UNMASKED can be accessed on the mobile phone. With the interactive AR layers and digital ‘face masks’, information can be visualized everywhere around you using geolocation, and shared with others too. In this way UNMASKED is making the invisible visible, informing and empowering citizens to take protective action to safeguard their own health.

Start with some design principles: We want to 1. Inform people, put them in charge; 2. Make the pollution more tangible/understandable (we also add particles information and visualization); 3. Give the right information at the right time in a way that stimulates healthy action; 4. Provide data in an understandable, meaningful, and tangible way; 5. Stimulates togetherness and form a community.

The prototype designs were exhibited in Erasmus Huis, Kuningan in May 2019. We are aware that our product needs to be iterate, hopefully creating a better interaction and impact on human behavior to take action accordingly.

See how the prototypes work

Disclaimer: Please do not copy this work and information for another project/work without the creator’s acknowledgment. Unless you asked us. We will appreciate your works if you let us know and we will gladly to help you.

What is next?

We are currently connecting people who are doing the air pollution project and looking forward to continuing the project. Drop me an email vivian.maretina@gmail.com for more info.

Like or comment this content and I will create more insight about the environment issue and research. Thank you for your support!

Recognition

The Jakarta Post https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2019/01/31/what-if-indonesian-dutch-designers-collaboration-imagines-sustainable-society.html

Ping point https://pingpoint.co.id/berita/prihatin-dengan-udara-jakarta-vivian-ciptakan-unmasked/

Koran Jakarta http://www.koran-jakarta.com/pameran-disain-yu/

About us

Vivian Maretina (Indonesia) – maretinavivian@wordpress.com
Education: Product Design, Institut Teknologi Bandung (2016)

Vivian is a product designer passionate about social design projects, working to solve humanity problem and empowering the economic value for the people. She has been working on plastic waste recycling in Bali; healthy food for low-income in Bandung; and education in remote area. She believes that any newly design intervention or solution would be impactful and desirable through human centered approach. Eventually, putting sustainability forward ensuring a positive longer term effects.

Marleen Van Bergeijk (The Netherlands) – www.marleenvanbergeijk.com
Education: Industrial Design, Eindhoven University of Technology (2016)

Marleen is a designer focusing on social innovation in health & well-being.
Driven from personal experience, Marleen helps health organisations innovate and improve the patient experience. Her designs function as tools that empower people to take action on their own health and well-being. Solutions are always found and inspired by people and the (desired) interaction between them. Using tangibility and creating new interactions between people allows people to understand each other and take action from their own point of strength.


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