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New app to offer air pollution advice by postcode using AI

The latest tool for information on local air quality lands next year on mobile in a bid to help vulnerable people make informed choices about where to travel. 

Codenamed PASS, the Pollution Avoidance Support System is the brainchild of researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, and comes in the form of a mobile app that delivers in-depth insights into air pollution levels by UK postcode. 

While the information provided to users is based on AI modelling, rather than real time readings, it is hoped that it can help the people most vulnerable to air pollution to avoid flashpoints when planning journeys. 

The PASS first takes air quality readings for the area surrounding and including a specific postcode. This process uses existing active sensors to source actual up-to-date data. Features of a specific postcode – such as building height, traffic and weather data – are then analysed, with a mathematical model produced that can accurately predict current air quality at the specific postcode.

The readings are then colour-coded, with green would indicating low levels of pollution, while dark purple should be taken as a warning of very high levels. Users can also dive deeper into the information by looking at specific gases and pollutants that are being modelled and recorded, and compare these to what acceptable and legal levels should be. 

‘Air pollution data often covers a broad geographical area, which is useful if you are planning to travel long distances, but not so useful if you just want to pop down to the shop. This can make it difficult for certain groups, including older people with respiratory conditions, to make informed choices about where they travel to keep themselves safe,’ said Professor Hafiz Alaka, Director of the Big Data Tech and Innovation Lab at the University of Hertfordshire, who led on the project.

‘PASS will be the first app of its kind to give users information about air pollution in their immediate, local area, using the power of artificial intelligence and big data,’ he continued. ‘Having this information in the palm of your hand could have a huge impact on how you live your day-to-day life, and it could also help lower the prevalence of conditions made worse or trigged by air pollution’ 

PASS will be piloted in Birmingham in March 2023, before going live across the UK. Earlier this month, we published a story looking at the most advanced map of UK air pollution ever created

Image credit: PASS

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