Sensor journalism is empowering the public in new ways to tell data-driven stories that are important to their community or brand. Data-driven journalism is not new, but the online availability at reasonable costs of sensors to measure everything from air pressure to speed and motion now puts data journalism in the palm of the public’s hands.

How can you enhance your communication skills?

Two examples of how a content creator or citizen journalist can turn a sensor into a story include:

1. Installing motion sensors in a store to see where people roam, how they shop and where they spend their time. This could power a great story about nutrition and marketing. The story could highlight how much time on average consumers spend in the middle aisles where foods are not fresh, versus, the outlying aisles of a market where typically the fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish and dairy products are found.

2. Heat sensors could installed through a shopping mall during the holiday season could inform a heat map story about where people are spending their time in a mall. A journalist could write about whether or not the crowds in the shopping areas are drawing window shoppers, food court gatherers, or if consumers are spending their time in the stores. The visual heat map that the heat sensor produces could translate into a great infographic. It could illustrate what types of stores the majority of people are browsing through and how they spend their time in the shopping center.

How can sensors help someone in public relations?

If your client has a public appearance or is making a keynote speech, you can install sensors in the room to measure the level of audience/fan engagement. Various sensors can measure behaviors such as heat (where people are standing or sitting), sound (are people talking or applauding), and cellular transmission (are people Tweeting or using their phones).

The possibilities with sensor story journalism are endless. The relative affordability of these sensors makes it so that almost anyone can engage in this sort of data mining and story telling. From a brand that wants to know more about their consumers’ behaviors in their stores to a citizenry that wants to measure their air quality, the sky is the limit.

Where to Find Sensors

Check out SparkFun.com to find the sensors mentioned in this article and browse for more sensors. Tweet me your sensor story idea!