Articles

Offering a Mappable Look at the Greater 'Health of Cities'

On-the-go sensor technology is the latest way to examine airborne pollutants and what they mean for cities and residents.

by / September 14, 2015
Aclima environmental sensors were attached to three Google Street View vehicles in the Denver metropolitan area. Flickr/Sancho McCann

The idea of monitoring the world around us is not a new one, but big data and small sensors are changing the process and what we can learn from the information we collect. 

For Aclima, a San Francisco-based environmental technology company, translating the data that is literally floating around us into the “pulse” of a place is what it strives to do. 

And its recent partnership with Google Earth Outreach will mean more than just mapping the streets we drive, bicycle and walk on; it will mean mapping air quality and quality of life as well. 

Three Google Street View vehicles fitted with sensors set out into the Denver metro area to map pollutants, like carbon monoxide, ozone and methane, and translate that data into easily accessible, mappable data. The month-long study was announced in late July.

“We have a profound opportunity to understand how cities live and breathe in an entirely new way by integrating Aclima’s mobile sensing platform with Google Maps and Street View cars,” Aclima CEO Davida Herzl said in a July press release. “With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, environmental health is becoming increasingly important to quality of life. Today we’re announcing the success of our integration test with Google, which lays the foundation for generating high-resolution maps of air quality in cities.”

But city streets are not the only potential proving ground for technologies like this. Places like malls, airports and office buildings also hold the potential for the health-centric tools. 

Through a network of sensors and data processing, the company is able to provide a larger picture of overall health for their clients.