EU-funded air quality monitoring app launched

Project to develop smartphone apps that monitor nearby noise and air pollution was funded by the EU research and technological development programme

A smartphone app designed to inform users how much air pollution they are exposed to has been launched, having received two million Euros (£1.59 milllion) in funding from the EU.

The AirProbe app was developed as part of the EVERYAWARE research project, which involved partner organisations from Belgium, Germany and Italy — as well as the Chorley Institute at University College London in the UK.

The EU-funded AirProbe phone app helps users to log the air quality around them

The EU-funded AirProbe phone app helps users to monitor the air quality around them

More than 300 people from Antwerp, Kassel, Turin and London participated in the first tests of the app, which has been designed to increase awareness of air pollution. These ‘Air Ambassadors’ collected over 28 million air quality points and gave their feedback on the tools.

A similar smartphone app to measure noise pollution — WideNoise — was also developed as part of the project, which has already been used by more than 10,000 people and was at the centre of a study of noise levels at Heathrow Airport.

The apps include social games and interactive maps to share information and work in conjunction with small, battery-operated sensor boxes that connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth. The data collected by the apps is made available to all users.

According to the EU, after sucking in air, the AirProbe box sends readings for the level of ozone, black carbon and other pollutants to a central server, which then sends around information about the town’s polluted areas as well as peak pollution times to avoid.

According to the EU, one participant commented: “It is interesting to see the difference between the feeling we have, our perception and the actual data.”

Project coordinator Vittorio Loreto, a research leader at ISI Foundation in Turin and a physics professor at Sapienza University in Rome, said: “The EVERYAWARE project really aimed to empower people, to give them easy but accurate tools to measure air quality and noise. And then we analysed their use of the system as well as the data they had collected.”

The system is currently used in schools and for new studies, the EU said, although the AirProbe sensor box would need to be mass-produced in order to widen its use.

Professor Loreto said: “For the time being, I imagine a much smaller, ideally wearable sensor box integrated into our clothes and objects. The integration with the smartphones is of course also envisioned, though on a longer timescale. It all depends on which companies are interested in producing the sensor box, and how much smartphone makers are willing to invest.”

He added that scientists could also use the information gathered to analyse pollution trends and post this information online for citizens and public authorities, which could help tackle traffic congestion.

Vice president of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, said: Thanks to new technologies we are now firmly in the era of citizen science where everyone can create, collect and share data for the common good. Data about the environment, but also about health and culture for example. Opportunities to be better informed and connected are higher than ever before, we have to grab them.”

The EVERYAWARE project was awarded funding from the EU seventh framework programme for research and technological development 2007-2013.


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