Could this Tech Get People Swimming in City Rivers?
Located at Pier 17 (between Manhattan and Brooklyn), the art installation uses sensors to monitor pollution levels. Fifty LED lights attached to these sensors change colour according to water quality, signalling whether it’s safe for swimming. The data collected can then be analysed on an online dashboard, providing in-depth information on metrics like salinity and pathogen levels, proving that the East River is not always as polluted as it’s believed to be.
The installation supports Playlab’s work with local non-profit +Pool, whose goal is to install a public swimming pool in the East River. While public sentiment has been a barrier, allowing people to monitor chemical levels in the river is a clever way to engage with them. As we highlight in our Look Ahead 2020: Technology, this kind of grass-roots approach to urban innovation is becoming increasingly popular, as citizens become fed up with stalled government-led initiatives.
In 2017, Dutch brewing company Heineken donated $100,000 to Playlab, while NY art festival Tribeca Film Fest created a short documentary about the project. As brands take part in local activism – a trend we describe in Brands as Change Leaders – supporting initiatives like Playlab offers a first step towards conversations on topical issues like public infrastructure. Such projects also offer opportunities for brands to connect with regional communities.