Understanding Participatory Sensing !!!

Participatory sensing is not something new, but the term ‘Participatory Sensing’ has been coined about a few years back. It got slide into popularity when mobile phones started to be equipped with sensors. Now, almost everyone posses a smartphone and hence, it can be used to gather information of weather, environment, traffic and many other data. This data can be then used for systematic interpretation of the context.

What is Participatory Sensing?

Participatory sensing is a paradigm that allows people as a community to collect sensory information. It converts people into virtual sensor devices and the collected sensor data can be used for systematic interpretation, which helps in making the system context-aware. Obviously, higher the number of participants, the more the accuracy of the data will be.

Super heroes doing Participatory Sensing :D


The below figure depicts a generic architecture of participatory sensing. It typically consists a group of participants, which sent data to the data processing cloud. The processed data is then used to produce results, take decision and trigger events. Though it might sound simple and easy, in reality the web cloud performs data mining, analytics and, often, various complex algorithms so as to interpret the data.

Participatory Sensing Architecture


There can be a lot of application scenarios where p-Sensing can fit in as an apt technology. Two of the potent applications are listed below.

  • Crowd-sourced data collection: Participants (sometimes anonymous) help in gathering data, which can be then used for research and analytics. These kind of apps can also help in building public data like maps as well as contribute to some surveys.
  • Monitoring and real-time systems: Users provide data which can help in monitoring a particular area which eventually help in identifying patterns in data or give some real-time information like current traffic congestion in the area.

Challenges in participatory sensing (which i don’t intent to list in this particular post) have attracted interest from various research communities. Since then, participatory sensing have been rapidly evolving  evolving. Amid of these developments, p-sensing is yet to gain viable commercial  share as there exists a lot of privacy concerns. P-sensing can gain only in those scenarios that involves voluntary participants  in huge numbers. And, the irony is, about 40% of the mobile apps employ participatory sensing as p-Sensing is just a procedural framework where data from the user is employed to produce results.


Freelancer and a Wireless tech enthusiast at Blog-Jakes
Anoop Jacob, known as Jakes, is a Wireless tech enthusiast and blogger from India. He is also a researcher and a birder by hobby.

3 thoughts on “Understanding Participatory Sensing !!!

  • Sunday

    Hi Jake,
    This is my first time of learning about Participatory Sensing. I am seeing the details majorly reflects on programmers. How can this truly benefit me as a random smartphone user?
    I posed this question in kingged.com where this post was shared.

  • metz

    “Mobile sensing is increasingly becoming part of everyday life due to the rapid evolution of the mobile phone into a powerful sensing platform.”

    Countless of companies aims to develop mobile sensing technologies that help communities gather and analyze environmental data. I must say that this is important to know/understand both mobile sensing and participatory sensing since one of the most important device in our lives is a mobile phone.

    It’s a smart article Jakes. Thanks for this. I found good information here and it is well written. Great post!


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