Trees are nature’s air purifiers. How essential they are in our lives is a topic not up for debate. They are the source of shade, food, oxygen and now – WiFi. A group of researchers and engineers got together in Amsterdam forming TreeWifi, a small

Joris Lam, founder of TreeWifi

Joris Lam, founder of TreeWifi

device that can be hung on trees and release free WiFi – but only when the air surrounding the tree is clean. The new initiative is aiming to improve better air quality through urban incentives.

The device itself, pictured above, is designed to look like a typical birdhouse. After the successful installment of their first TreeWifi, the company is planning to install five more after receiving required finances, around € 7,000 (US $7,762).

The TreeWifi team believe that this step “will not only offer researchers a better understanding of the workings of air pollution, but also motivate citizens to get involved in reducing air pollution.”

We catch up with Joris Lam, the founder to TreeWifi, to understand how the device operates, follow up on their installments plans and find out what they need to achieve their goals.

What inspired you to start this project?

I wanted to find out the air quality in my street where I live, but quickly discovered there’s no easy answer to that question. Because we have poor air quality in a lot of places in Amsterdam I wanted to change that and raise awareness by designing something that people will enjoy interacting with.

How did your team get to know each other?

I started a campaign where the main goal was not to find money, but people willing to donate their time and skills. When people read about the project online they got excited and joined the team.

The TreeWifi team- TreeWifi

The TreeWifi team- TreeWifi

Can you explain to us how it works?

Inside the birdhouse is an advanced air quality sensor that picks up on harmful emission gasses. The data from that sensor is represented by LEDs on the birdhouse in real time and also wirelessly sent to our server. The server calculates the levels of pollution and if the air is healthy or becoming cleaner it sends a signal to the birdhouse that it can start giving free WiFi to everyone.

How are you financing your project?

We are still looking for a small amount of money to fund the research, it would be great if people are willing to donate! So far we have raised €2,224 (US $2,466).

How much does it cost to build and install one tree Wifi?

We’re still working that out as we are still making different designs with different materials. The pricing will be somewhere between €300 and €1,500 depending on the amount of various sensors and manufacturing and material choice.

How has the first unit been working?

The one that’s already been installed works great, the results are at a very early stage but the data looks very promising

Will you be responsible for installing them?

That could be the case, but we’re making them very easy to install so anyone should be able to do it.

How many do you plan to install in the near future?

We have one unit installed outside our office and with the additional funding we plan to install at least five more in the fall of this year

So, do you plan to take it to a global scale?