Google Straps Aclima Sensors To Street View Cars To Map Air Pollution

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Aclima and Google Partner to Map Outdoor Air Quality with Street View Vehicles.

While Google’s Street View cars have been busy snapping images of roads across the globe, including some of the most remote locations on Earth, a small handful of the smart vehicles have been quietly gathering data on something that’s much harder to see: air pollution.

We’ve come to rely on Google Street View for everything from roads to hiking paths to coral reefs, but we may soon rely on it for something even more important – mapping urban air pollution.SAN FRANCISCO — July 28, 2015: Aclima, Inc., a San Francisco-based company that designs and deploys environmental sensor networks, today announced a new partnership with Google Earth Outreach to map and better understand urban air quality. In the city, it can vary from block to block, neighborhood to neighborhood, and many times the current network of sensors just doesn’t pick up on fine-scale pollution events that could also lead to a spike in your asthma. The cars spent 750 hours on the city’s streets and collected 150 million data points about levels of various air pollutants, many of them caused directly and indirectly by gas-powered cars and fossil fuel-based power plants.

Aclima during this test also worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to correlate its data with that from the agency’s stationary air quality measuring network, which also measures for levels of gases like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter – gases that, when found at increased levels, can cause problems including lung inflammation and trouble concentrating, just to name two related health issues. Starting this fall, three air quality cars will be buzzing around San Francisco, with the hopes of using the data to inform community decisions and new science and health studies. A key point of the test was to validate seven-year-old Aclima’s environmental sensor tech, which is a first step for the startup to offer the environmental sensors more widely. Imagine that while these Google cars zip around the city taking photos of your neighborhood, they will also be monitoring pollution levels — ozone, carbon monoxide, methane, particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, to name a few — across space and time. “Many things affect air quality – everything from our transportation and energy choices, to green space and the weather,” said Davida Herzl, Aclima co-founder and CEO. “Understanding these complex relationships is critical to managing and improving air quality.” There are quite a few metro areas in the U.S. where the weather is dominated by what meteorologists call micro-climates — small areas where weather can be quite different than the surrounding large-scale environment. The company also makes it own hardware and has been developing what it says is the world’s smallest particulate matter sensor in collaboration with the EPA and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

So far, EPA has relied on an extensive network of these stationary devices in urban areas to measure harmful airborne pollutants and determine if air quality meets or exceeds public health standards. In addition to making it an interesting place to forecast, the micro-climate phenomenon can also add variability to the air quality from one neighborhood to the next. The monitoring network is designed for air quality regulation, but does not give a detailed picture of a community or urban area such that people can get a real sense of what air pollution is in their immediate surroundings. According to the company, it processes over 500,000 data points per day from those indoor locations, giving Google measurements of everything from temperature, humidity, noise and light, and air pollutants on a room-by-room basis so that the technology giant can assess how it might make future adjustments to support employee wellbeing and comfort.

For instance, NO2 levels were elevated during the 7:00 a.m. morning rush hour when 40,000 vehicles hit the road but O3 levels were low because sunshine had just started its photochemical reactions. For example, carbon dioxide has been found to reduce mental performance when found in high enough concentrations, and there’s one indoor space in particular where it can build up easily. Aclima was founded by Davida Herzl and her family in 2008, and the company only began to talk publicly about what it’s been up to about a month ago. There’s unlimited potential for our work to help improve the health and resilience of communities everywhere.” This Fall, Aclima and Google will expand mapping efforts to the San Francisco Bay Area and work with communities and scientists to explore applications for this new environmental tool. If you happen to be out in San Francisco and see a Google car, you can tell if it’s crunching air quality data by checking to see if there’s an anemometer on top.

Aclima’s Sensory Science system connects stationary sensors with scalable hardware and software to generate billions of data points across multiple environmental factors, and can monitor air quality either in one office building or across an entire city. Better, and more, data will be crucial to helping cities combat the growing amount of air pollution causing human health problems, and causing global warming.

Using Aclima’s science-driven sensor networks to map our indoor environmental quality is a big part of making that happen.” Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

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