Moving beyond the Technology: A Socio-technical Roadmap for Low-Cost Water Sensor Network Applications

Feng Mao*, Kieran Khamis, Julian Clark, Stefan Krause, Wouter Buytaert, Boris F. Ochoa-Tocachi, David M. Hannah

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
202 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper, we critically review the current state-of-the-art for sensor network applications and approaches that have developed in response to the recent rise of low-cost technologies. We specifically focus on water-related low-cost sensor networks, and conceptualize them as socio-technical systems that can address resource management challenges and opportunities at three scales of resolution: (1) technologies, (2) users and scenarios, and (3) society and communities. Building this argument, first we identify a general structure for building low-cost sensor networks by assembling technical components across configuration levels. Second, we identify four application categories, namely operational monitoring, scientific research, system optimization, and community development, each of which has different technical and nontechnical configurations that determine how, where, by whom, and for what purpose low-cost sensor networks are used. Third, we discuss the governance factors (e.g., stakeholders and users, networks sustainability and maintenance, application scenarios, and integrated design) and emerging technical opportunities that we argue need to be considered to maximize the added value and long-term societal impact of the next generation of sensor network applications. We conclude that consideration of the full range of socio-technical issues is essential to realize the full potential of sensor network technologies for society and the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9145-9158
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number15
Early online date6 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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