Air-quality information for potential house owners

ides bauwens
Dec 18, 2018 · 4 min read

This article was originally published at

Air quality is a major determinant of the quality of human life: it affects our health as well as the environment. Air pollution is a major cause of several cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and results in up to four million deaths per year. Both short-term and chronic exposure to what is termed ‘poor’ air quality can lead to a significantly reduced lifespan, in addition to presenting health complications ranging from irritation of the eyes, nose and throat to acute and chronic respiratory disease, heart disease and stroke.

In this context, monitoring and control of the air quality around us is crucial. The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), implemented by ECMWF on behalf of the European Union, monitors and forecasts many components of the air considered to be pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ozone and particulate matter (PM). CAMS provides information on the concentrations of these pollutants at surface level and various heights above Earth’s surface.

Surface-level PM2.5 concentration-mean at 0000 UTC, CAMS forecast for 28.11.2018 (Credit: Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, ECMWF)

An important objective of Copernicus, and therefore CAMS, is the uptake of its data and products by downstream service providers to reach a much wider user community than otherwise possible. One such user of the CAMS data is Nazka Mapps, a company that provides air quality data through their aircheckr application to provide citizens with vital information that could help reduce their exposure to ‘bad’ air. As raw air-quality data are not particularly meaningful for daily use by the general public, aircheckr ‘translates’ CAMS datasets (regional ensemble data for particulate matter, ozone and nitrogen dioxide) into a format that can be easily understood. Since 2017, the app has been offering customised air quality information on national, city, and communal levels for most places it covers (which includes most of Europe) and even down to street level in Flanders, Belgium.

Comparison of air quality indices for two locations in the same city 200 m apart (Copyright aircheckr)
Pollutant concentrations expressed as Air Quality Index by aircheckr (Copyright aircheckr)

By integrating the CAMS datasets into their application programming interface (API), aircheckr can offer real-time air pollution information as well as historical data and predictions (up to 48 hours ahead), targeting a wide spectrum of users. In Belgium, real-estate companies such as Co-libry already include historical air-quality data from aircheckr on their websites so that potential buyers can make an informed decision about their investment and/or living conditions. Another sector, for which this information is of vital use, is in digital signage — companies such as Seenspire have integrated aircheckr real-time data into their services displaying air quality information at key locations such as the city centre and the airport. In a similar vein, aircheckr is also working with smart city projects to build a better infrastructure for providing valuable information that affects the quality of life of citizens. This information could impact their choices about workplaces, living conditions, routes to take and so on.

The real-time data and forecast model on offer could also benefit academia in gaining a better understanding of both outside and indoor air quality. At Ghent University (Belgium), researchers are already implementing aircheckr data through a simulation in which they explore the role of air quality and ventilation in a model house.

Currently, aircheckr works on a business-to-business model whereby interested enterprises can draw the necessary data from an application programming interface (API), which allows for easy integration into downstream services and products. Additionally, individual users can access the information through the website or a widget for free. This feature is only available for Belgium at the moment, but will accommodate other European locations soon.

For the future, Nazka Mapps is looking into mobile solutions and smooth data integration to include scenarios such as fitness tracking apps, which would directly give their users information on air quality so that they could plan their route better. They are also working towards obtaining a global dataset on a finer scale to provide solutions to as many people as possible with a higher spatial resolution.


Stories & Information from the developers of aircheckr

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