How Filthy Is the Air You’re Breathing? Ask Your Smartphone

A new app called Breezometer connects users with real-time data from pollution sensors.
Feb 6, 2015·
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

With a few clicks of your smartphone you can find out whether it’s going to rain or how the stock market is doing. Now, there’s an app to let you know whether you’re breathing dirty air from where you’re standing.

That’s the claim behind a new app called Breezometer. Just type in your location and it will produce a simple air-quality reading and suggestions such as, “You can go on a run—just keep your nose open for any changes!”

The app takes available data from the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups. But since this information typically covers large regions such as cities, the developers had to do some legwork.

“The data is scattered,” Ziv Lautman, cofounder of Breezometer, told TechCrunch. “It comes from many different sources, and usually it’s just like a spreadsheet. Different countries have different standards for pollution measurement; in fact, sometimes consumers only get told that pollution is ‘moderate.’ That’s not only uninformative, it may mean something different somewhere else.”

To zoom in on locations, the app makers—a team of environmental engineers—developed air pollution dispersion models that track how contaminants spread over a particular area.

The Israeli startup intends to collaborate with other companies, including those in the health and real estate industries. The team also hopes to work with other developers to integrate the technology into other apps.

“We can tell you which park is healthier to play with your kids in, and we could also help your favorite running app decide which route through town will give you the healthiest exercise,” Lautman told TechCrunch.

If it works as the company claims it does, the technology has a lot of potential. The smog in Beijing might make headlines, but air pollution is not just a problem in China. According to the American Lung Association, half of Americans breathe unhealthy air. This app could help raise awareness of how many pollutants we’re inhaling and exhaling. But the overall solution still lies with government agencies such as the EPA, which regulates industries such as factory farms that are responsible for spewing dangerous contaminants into the air.

So far, the app has rolled out in Israel and the U.S.

“Asia is our next market,” Lautman told Fast Company. “China has thousands of air quality sensors we can use.”