Talk to any stranger on the street of any UK city about air pollution, and you’re likely to find someone who agrees it’s a problem. That’s a powerful starting point for any problem we face as a society, especially for a problem that we cannot see. Especially in 2017.
Air pollution has been covered relentlessly in the press. More and more negative health impacts are coming to light, seemingly each week. Asthma, allergies, and respiratory disease are well documented. Now we may also be contending with diabetes, childhood obesity, and even dementia as a result of exposure to air pollution.
But as the saying goes, seeing is believing. We still can’t “see” air pollution, and that makes it easy to ignore, even when the evidence of disastrous public health consequences is so clear.
Cities – especially local councils – are beginning to get smarter about air pollution, and rightfully so. Some estimates put the social and healthcare costs associated with air pollution in the billions; Doctors Against Diesel, an advocacy group, say it costs £20B per year.
Local communities and even London’s Mayor are now demanding better, more consistent, and more accurate reporting of air pollution in every community. But current reporting methods rely on complicated statistics and infrequent measurements. Furthermore, it’s difficult to understand where exactly the monitors are located. Is it valuable to collect pollution data from atop a building?
What if every citizen had a personal, portable air quality monitor that uploaded data in real-time to a collective, shared online resource?
Imagine if every person in every UK city could decide her route to work, school, or the cafe based in part on the level of air pollution that day.
Brizi is aiming to bring this kind of open data platform to life, with accurate, affordable, portable pollution sensors and a sister product, Brizi Baby, intended to protect children from infants to age four from air pollution.
Crowd-sourced data of this kind is what Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt says is the future of innovation. For cities, this data have almost endless possible applications: it could help ease congestion of both automobile traffic and foot traffic by providing incentives to choose different routes; could help cities target specific areas for congestion charges or other policy changes; or even spur the creation of wholly new industries or public services.
The public will benefit immensely. In addition to empowering users to choose healthier routes, a smart map of pollution will also provide much needed data to support community efforts to reduce air pollution, inform new development projects, and advocate for cleaner policies with government authorities.
For community organisations, cities and councils, and everyday citizens, visualising dangerous air pollution is a win-win-win. It accelerates long-term goals of improving public health, expanding data-driven innovation, and combatting climate change.
To us at Brizi, it’s a no brainer. We hope you’ll join us in making it a reality.