Air pollution today has reached critical levels. This environmental hazard is a significant health risk, causing more than 3 million premature deaths each year. Air pollution has become a major world problem, so much so that some countries have placed monitoring and reducing levels of toxins in the air at the top of their national agendas. Yet, before the pollution can be eradicated, it must be detected. Here are just three ways that technology is now allowing us to monitor air quality in different parts of the world.
Imagine being able to pull up information about air quality in your current location on your laptop or smartphone. Google partnered with Aclima to gather environmental data and make the information available on Google Maps. They are using their Google Cars to collect the data, which is then sent to its Google offices around the world. The information collected includes levels of methane, NO2, CO2, O3, and black carbon in the air. These figures will be available to the public at no cost.
Pigeon Air Patrol
Everyone knows that you shouldn’t feed pigeons in public. More will arrive, and the mess is astonishing. Yet, scientists in London have found a way to make a group of racing pigeons into environmental superstars. The air pollution in London is becoming a major issue, with more than 9,500 Londoners dying each year from breathing unhealthy air.
Plume Labs in the U.K. created a pilot project called ‘Pigeon Air Patrol.’ These hard-working birds wear tiny backpacks with embedded sensors and collect real-time data about air pollutants in boroughs throughout the city. The sensors report back on levels of ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and other compounds in the air. Londoners, or anyone else, can tweet @PigeonAir to get these air quality reports.
Plume Labs has also created an App that is now used by more than 300 cities and municipalities around the world to report air quality. U.S. cities that are using the App include New York City, St. Louis, Cleveland, Memphis, and Boise. As its next phase, Plume Labs is working towards using wearable devices.
Whether you participate in the Plume Labs project with wearable devices or another program, the wave of the future in air quality monitoring is going to allow citizens to participate in environmental awareness. Some companies are developing Apps that will pair with wearable devices to report air quality through a smartphone.
At least a half dozen of these personal environmental sensors are currently in use or under development. One with real promise is the Clarity device, developed by students at the University of California, Berkeley. The device clips to a bag or belt and interfaces with the wearer’s smartphone for reporting. The most attractive feature is its affordability, with target prices are between $50 and $75.
Air pollution is a problem that is just now receiving the attention that it deserves. As countries and our top experts work to reduce levels of pollutants in the air, there remains a need to monitor air quality levels to measure progress. These technologies are helping them to create cleaner air for future generations.
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