Real time air pollutant maps could tell you what your air is like on your street. Here are three ways air monitoring could help us.
Living in dense cities like London, San Francisco or Hong Kong can create a real struggle to find clean air. The pollution issue - 'bad air' - is a very real one with approximately 7 million people dying per year as a result, not to mention the general annoyance of exacerbated asthma and coughs. Other than moving into a rural village in the woods, it's very hard to do something about bad air on an individual level.
Sensors, which are becoming cheaper and cheaper (such as using an Arduino-Android DIY sensor) have made it possible to track air pollutants in real time. Heatmaps show us what’s what directly around us. How will this monitoring impact what we do?
According to this Aduino blog post, a low-cost sensor system was developed that can provide valid data when designed and integrated into the appropriate software. AirCasting is a company that records, maps, and shares health and environmental data using Arduino and Android. Last year AirCasting succeeded in a crowdfunding campaign for AirBeam (a wearable air monitor that maps, graphs and crowdsources your invidual pollution exposure in real-time).
Fitness: Keeping in Rhythm with the Air Flow
We’ve already seen bikers wearing facemasks to reduce the amount of car exhaust filling their lungs. Breezometer is a startup that can send you personalised messages about the best moments (and worst) to go for a run. There is a fair amount of variation throughout the day, and if you could slot your routine into fluctuations in air quality you could avoid the worst moments.
nuviun inerviewed Ziv Lautman, co-founder of BreezoMeter. Lautman also allowed us to plot city air quality data in an ineractive data visualisation. He explains that his startup was also among 72 start-ups worldwide invited to participate in the White House’s Emerging Global Entrepreneurship event last week to meet Barack Obama.
Fitness mobile apps such as Runkeeper or MyFitnesspal could possibly use air quality information to warn the everyday sportswoman if a workout oudoors isn't safe. During the opening ceremoney of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, air quality warnings were sent to athletes who might risk their health due to London's summer smog. For the professional athelete, running enthusiast or sporadic jogger, air quality monitoring could help you to maximise performance and minimise health risks.
An Experiment: Tweet to Fitness App Companies & Request Air Quality Warning Features
We've compiled a list so that you can reach out to the biggest running app creators directly to ask for quality warning features in running apps. How amazing would it be if these companies would respond to your ideas?
Air Quality Is Different in Different Cities at Different Times for Different Pollutants
Explore the visualization by selecting different types of pollutants and see how the pollutant levels change over the course of a day for three cities (Graphic: Ben Heubl).
Avoid Bad Air, Embrace Bad Hair
London’s mayor's office launched a new campaign this year to warn people about air quality. The system sent its first alert message to citizens on the 17th of March this year. These warning messages make people aware of the air quality around us.
Under the delicate marketing slogan “Avoid bad air, embrace bad hair” the campaign is keen to appeal to the public. Londoners can subscribe to the free service. According to the government site, around 3 to 8 times every year the daily air pollution is alarmingly high in the city, making it worthwhile to reach out to their citizens during those times.
Doctor, Doctor - What am I Breathing?
A combination of GPS tracking and government air sensors will give you a picture of your air. By combining this with medical records, we could get a better picture of exposure limits and give individuals a heads up when it’s time for a trip into the countryside.
Both indoor and outdoor air pollution is a factor. Indoor air quality can be even worse than the impact from outdoor air quality (WHO suggests that 4.3 million people a year die from the exposure to household air pollution).
A startup from France called Alima sells an indoor air monitor. Alima, a smart device monitoring indoor air quality, sends the user updates on pollution levels as they occur while also predicting upcoming events.
Try it for yourself, if you live in one of the cities, it is worth a try to find out how your area scores. The tool is currently free.
A startup from Lithuania called Placeilive might be able to change how we live in our cities by offering detailed data maps for health, crime, and quality of life. The company offers an online platform, and app and a research hub that could revolutionize how environmental data is being distributed.
nuviun interviewed startup co-founder Sarunas Legeckas in April and asked him where he sees the data-driven journey going. While Legeckas mentioned that air quality is important for people, one very important market the company is currently exploring is the online real estate market.
Real Estate - Mega Rich have Poor Air
Estate agents are starting to link air pollutants into the valuation of houses. We spend large chunks of our lives at home, so the local air will no doubt have a big influence over our health. With home purchases often being made by young families - new parents may take air quality into their decision making.
Following the trials and tribulations of carbon trading - this could be how air pollution mergers with the economy. Good air finally has a price. Interestingly, centrally located prime real estate often has the worst air quality. Could pressure from the mega rich influence pollution control from traffic and industry?
nuviun's Datavision supports the stimulation of discussion and debate on important issues in global digital health. The views are solely those of the author(s).