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Tracking Air Pollution in the Palm of Your Hand

Someone tracking pollution when it's right in front of them

According to the World Health Organization, approximately seven million people die each year due to air pollution. More than four million suffer from diseases like asthma and lung cancer as within clean air limits set by the WHO. Based on these statistics, it’s understandable why air quality monitoring is important. It also justifies the need for air pollution tracker solutions to assess whether current efforts are making a difference. This is not only important on a global scale, but it’s also helpful on an individual basis. If we hope to change trends for the better, every effort must be made to reduce air pollution. And some businesses are joining in the fight by leveraging new technologies to provide such insights.

Recently, weather forecasting giant AccuWeather made a move to purchase a company called Plume Labs. For a few years, AccuWeather had been using Plume Lab’s air pollution tracker and API to supplement its services. But apparently the benefits were so noteworthy, that they decided bringing the French startup into the fold was worthwhile. Given Plume Lab’s products, as well as the need for air quality monitoring, this is not that surprising. But the company’s plans for the future might just well be. With climate change looming, AccuWeather appreciates the value that Plume Labs offers. This can also be said for the many clients Plume Labs already enjoys throughout the world.

“Seven years ago, David Lissmyr and I launched Plume Labs to make air quality information accessible to everyone. Since then, our work has helped galvanize the fight for clean air by making the health impact of climate change personal.” – Romain Lacombe, Cofounder and CEO, Plume Labs

Making Air Quality Monitoring Personal

Plume Labs was originally founded in 2014, but since then, the company has been quite active. Most notably, it introduced a mobile app that provided users with air quality monitoring. Using aggregate data from multiple locations around the world, Plume Labs was able to show and predict air quality levels. In addition, users could see this data at street level, which made it highly relatable. Those traveling by foot, bicycle or scooter could select routes with the lowest air pollution present. Today, Plume Labs has over 12,000 monitoring stations throughout the world. And as a result, it offers an air pollution tracker that’s accurate in more than 100 cities.

Certainly, the mobile app provided a way for air quality monitoring among urban dwellers. But Plume Labs wanted to make their products even more personal. As a result, they subsequently developed their own wearable air pollution tracker called Flow. Flow made it possible for people to not only see air pollution levels but to act on it as well. In addition to air quality monitoring outdoors, Flow also lets users see air quality inside. This data further lets people make conscious choices about their environments. This may lead some to eliminate some combustible household devices or choose alternate transportation options. This is the type of feedback everyone needs in order to make better choices related to climate change.

(Read more about ten companies tackling the climate change problem in this Bold deep-dive.)

Scaling Air Pollution Tracker Solutions for All

While individual efforts are important, larger scale air quality monitoring offers greater potential for change. After all, industrial sources and automobiles remain the most notable sources of air pollution. In this regard, Plume Labs has also developed solutions to help business partners. This includes an API that companies can be integrated with their products as an air pollution tracker. Rather than reinventing the wheel, Plume Labs made it simple for others to incorporate its system. AccuWeather took this approach initially, which is how it realized how beneficial the API was. Ultimately, this led to AccuWeather’s purchase of the company.

A weird contraption that monitors pollution
Air quality monitoring means safeguard both health and the environment.

The secret behind Plume Labs air pollution tracker involves a machine learning system. The system gathers inputs regarding temperature, wind, humidity and air pressure in various areas. This data is then matched to sensors that detect particulate matter and polluting gases in monitoring stations across the globe. Over time, this has allowed Plume Lab’s model to continually improve and advance. Not only can it now provide real-time air quality monitoring, but it also forecasts it seven days in advance. Plus, their API and Flow tracker also provides data about pollen and ultraviolet ray exposure. Based on the wide array of information it offers, AccuWeather’s interest in the company is obvious.

“Air quality plays an intrinsic role in AccuWeather’s mission of saving lives and helping people prosper, and this acquisition will help us provide users and customers with an even more personalized experience as well as a 360-degree understanding of the impact of weather on their wellness.” – Steven R. Smith, President, AccuWeather

Bigger Plans on the Horizon

Over the last several years, Plume Labs has certainly made an impact on a global scale. The opportunities it provides individuals and partner organizations alike are substantial when it comes to air quality monitoring. But the company, and now AccuWeather, have even grander pursuits in store for the future. Several products are in beta mode currently. For example, one provides route planning for users to help them select fresh-air options. This not only has respiratory benefits but comprehensive health advantages for individuals as well. This is the type of information that can enable everyone to make better choices concerning their health.

The other effort the company is pursuing involves wildfire predictions. While this field of forecasting remains in its infancy, Plume Labs hopes to advance their capacities quickly. If this information proves to be accurate, prevention efforts could be performed to mitigate the impacts of wildfires. As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Therefore, investing in these types of efforts using machine learning has definite merit. These are the types of projects that Plume Labs hopes to advance in the near future. And with AccuWeather now as its parent company, it will enjoy the support to pursue them.


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