Press release – Open platform hackAIR maps current air quality in Europe’s cities

Open platform hackAIR maps current air quality in Europe’s cities – powered by citizens and smart technology

Citizens can use the app and low-cost sensors to generate their own measurements of air quality to enrich official data, and find out how to avoid and reduce particulate matter pollution

Press release – 8 February 2018

Today, hackAIR launches its apps for iOS and Android, connected to an online platform at www.hackair.eu, where citizens in Europe can check the air quality in their neighbourhood. In turn, everyone can improve the data from official sources with their own measurements, for instance by simply uploading a photo of the sky with their smartphone.

With air pollution being the number one environmental concern of European citizens and the number one environmental cause of illness and death in urban centres, hackAIR provides actionable information on the most important type of air pollution: particulate matter pollution. Particulate matter pollution is a complex mixture of extremely small particles in the air, which are easily inhaled.

Around 90% of Europeans living in cities are exposed to levels of air pollution deemed damaging to human health. Whilst the damaging impacts of particulate matter pollution are widely recognised, official air quality data show significant gaps and are often difficult to access.

The hackAIR platform aims to make that data readily available and improve the official datasets by combining them with measurements from users. They can take photos of the sky, use a piece of cardboard with petroleum jelly, or build their own microcomputer sensor in an afternoon.

Many Europeans rightly worry about air quality: how clean is the air I breathe, when I live near a major road, airport or industrial zone? The hackAIR platform gives them the answer, and helps them to contribute their own measurements to make that answer better, more relevant and actionable,” says Evangelos Kosmidis, Physicist and Founder of DRAXIS.

The hackAIR service is location-based and real-time, offering users a map-based interface to the data available on the air quality in their neighbourhood. With that information, they can find areas with clean air for relaxation and sports, and which areas to avoid because of high pollution levels. Citizens with concerns over air pollution can also use the platform to get better informed and involved in the discourse to improve air quality, locally and on a larger scale.

hackAIR offers four ways for users to contribute their own air quality data:

  1. They can submit photos of the sky using the hackAIR app. An algorithm gives a rough estimate of air pollution levels.
  2. They can build a simple cardboard sensor that uses the discoloration of petroleum jelly to get an estimate of the amount of particulate matter pollution.
  3. hackAIR provides manuals and workshops to build stationary and portable microcomputer air quality sensors. These sensors are cheap, easy-to-build and provide high-quality data.
  4. Experienced users can submit and access data using an online application programme interface (API).

In the coming year, hackAIR is organising a series of workshops in the pilot countries Germany, Norway, Greece and Belgium to raise awareness and train people on air quality, how to build sensors, and how to use the resulting information.

Air pollution is the environmental issue that Europeans worry about the most. But they do not feel sufficiently informed about the issues, and its impact on their health in their country. With the app, the workshops and the sensors, hackAIR aims to empower them to make better decisions based on better information,” says Arne Fellermann, BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany.

The app and platform

The app can be downloaded for iOs and Android from www.hackair.eu.

The platform is accessible at platform.hackair.eu.

About hackAIR

hackAIR is a collaboration of six European organisations working on air pollution,  environment, technology, citizen science and research.

The partners are DRAXIS (Greece), NILU (Norway), CERTH (Greece), BUND (Germany), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium) and ON:SUBJECT (the Netherlands). The Democritus University of Thrace, the Technological Educational Institute of Athens and CREVIS contribute as third parties affiliated to DRAXIS Environmental S.A.

hackAIR is supported by the Horizon 2020 programme on ‘Collective Awareness Platforms for Sustainability and Social Innovation’ of the European Union under grant agreement number 688363.

More information

Panagiota Syropoulou, project leader: syropoulou.p@draxis.gr, +30 697 900 35 12
In Germany: Arne Fellermann – Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland: Arne.Fellermann@bund.net, +49 176 810 366 72
In Norway: Hai-Yung Liu – Norwegian Institute for Air Research: hyl@nilu.no, +47 638 980 48; Sonja Grossberndt – Norwegian Institute for Air Research: sg@nilu.no, +47 63898245
In Belgium: Carina Veeckman – Vrije Universiteit Brussel: carina.veeckman@imec.be, +32 2 629 16 65
In the Netherlands: Wiebke Herding – ON:SUBJECT: wiebke@onsubject.eu, +31 61 55 073 66
In Greece: Panagiota Syropoulou –  DRAXIS Environmental S.A.: syropoulou.p@draxis.gr, +30 697 900 35 12

hackAIR’s social media monitoring tool

Keeping track of conversations and finding good people to follow on social media can be hard. Within hackAIR, this task has now become easier: CERTH has developed an easy-to-use web-based tool that enables real-time monitoring and analysis of a variety of popular social media platforms with open APIs (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube). This helps us discover online communities and accounts related to air quality and track the impact of our dissemination activities on social media.

The tool is configured to keep track of content that is posted around specific keywords and/or accounts of interest. In the context of hackAIR, we use keywords and accounts related to air quality but in principle, the tool can be used to monitor any type of keywords and accounts (e.g. the name of a brand and a number of accounts that often post messages related to this brand). Once specific sets of keywords and accounts (“collections”) have been specified the tool starts pulling related content from the social media platforms on a regular basis (every 15-30 mins) and creates a browsable stream of social media items (“feed”).

 

The feed view also enables filtering of the items by keyword, source(s) (e.g. show only Facebook and Google+ posts), language, topic (facilitated by text clustering methods), type (media/text) and date range. The items can also be ranked by recency (i.e. the most recent posts first) or popularity (e.g. post with the largest number of shares first). In addition, it is possible to filter redundant items (items with nearly identical content).

 

Browsing through a feed of social media posts around air quality

 

The feed view provides a useful means of discovering trending and popular social media content related to air quality topics and entities. However, the real power of the tool is the capability to provide quantitative views and statistics about the monitored content. This is exposed through the “dashboard” view, which is illustrated below. The dashboard consists of several “widgets”, i.e. visualization elements that depict a specific piece of information in an easy-to-grasp way. The first row of widgets concerns the activity and impact measurement of the monitored topic in terms of activity (number of posts), user base (number of users posting), reach (number of users reached) and endorsement (number of users liking the posted content). Another widget depicts the contribution of each social media source (Twitter, Google+, etc.) to the overall activity about the topic. A timeline widget illustrates the activity around the most important keywords over time. There are also two map widgets: a) a heatmap widget showing the levels of activity across the globe based on the location of geotagged posts (i.e. when users chose to share the location of their posts), b) a world map depicting the location of users (by geo-parsing the location field that users have entered in their public user profile page). Finally, there is a histogram widget that shows the most active users around the topic and a keyword bubble widget that depicts the most important keywords around the topic.

The tool source code is available on GitHub: https://github.com/MKLab-ITI/mmdemo-dockerized.
For more information contact: Manos Schinas (manosetro@iti.gr) or Symeon Papadopoulos (papadop@iti.gr)

 

Dashboard offering several statistics and visualizations around air quality

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