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Israeli entrepreneurs launch real-time air pollution monitoring app
By SHARON UDASIN
25/06/2014
BreezoMeter, accesses data in from 300 air pollution monitoring stations around the country.
 
Aiming to alert Israelis as to whether the air they are breathing is suitable for engaging in sports and other activities, a new free Android application provides location- based air pollution levels data through a real-time platform.

The newly released application, BreezoMeter, accesses data in real-time from 300 air-pollution monitoring stations around the country and uses an algorithm to calculate the user’s air-pollution level at any given location.

BreezoMeter was founded by three Technion graduates: environmental engineers Ran Korber and Ziv Lautman and software engineer Emil Fisher, after they raised $200,000 in seed funding from the venture capital firms Jumpspeed and Entree Capital.

“Our goal for BreezoMeter is that people will check their air quality as they check the weather,” said Lautman, who along with Korber is also a graduate of the accelerator program at SifTech: Jerusalem Entrepreneurship Center.

According to the BreezoMeter team, the director of the SifTech center has estimated that every dollar invested in the project would yield about $120 for civil society by reducing hospitalization rates, loss of workdays, medicines and other mechanisms to combat air-pollution related illnesses.

“Around the world, there are thousands of monitoring stations that measure air pollution in more than 90 countries – including the US, European nations, Japan and China – but most citizens lack access to this information and in most cases are not even aware of it,” Lautman said.

In Israel, air-pollution monitoring data is readily available on the Environmental Protection Ministry’s website, though not precisely in realtime.

Lautman and his co-founders decided to harness the data being collected by both the ministry and Israel Meteorological Services stations and channel it to citizens in a user-friendly form.

While at the moment the application only provides information about air-pollution levels in Israel, and is only available for Androids, the BreezoMeter team is working on an iPhone version, and plans to develop a similar system for California, followed by other US states and other countries, Lautman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“I have to say that we see a wake-up call in the field,” he said.

On Wednesday morning, based on this writer’s location in Rehovot, the application’s circular indicator loop, which changes color from green, to yellow, to orange, and to red, revealed – by means of a pointer in the shape of an elephant trunk – that air-pollution levels were at a barely green score of 62. The possible scores range from a positive rating of 100 down to -400, coinciding with government’s official air-pollution index figures.

The application features a map below the results, which is painted in the color corresponding to the air-pollution levels.

In addition to providing the real-time pollution score, the application instructs the user as to what physical activities are suitable in their environment.

While exercising was permitted at this writer’s borderline results of 62, the application suggested that the user monitor changes. It also indicated that the user could “go outside and enjoy, but because the air quality is decreasing, it is worthwhile to pay attention in the coming hours to changes in air quality.”

Although the application identifies air pollution based on the user’s GPS location, the user can also specify a different location.

Israel’s air-pollution index ranges from 100 to -400 and involves four colors, but these traits vary among indexes in different countries, Lautman explained. In the US, for example, the government’s air-pollution index has six different colors, and China’s has 10 different colors, he said.

“It was very important for us to be consistent and follow each country’s regulations,” Lautman added.

In order to pinpoint where an air-pollution level stands along the 100 to -400 scale in Israel, programmers make use of an algorithm that takes into account the concentrations of a variety of pollutants, such as ozone molecules, nitrous oxides and sulfur dioxide.

“Then they determine the air quality by the worst pollutant,” Lautman said.

The BreezoMeter team is in the process of developing forecast models so that users will also be able to get a better idea of what their air-pollution levels will be in the future, he added.

Acknowledging that the application is still only in Beta form, Lautman said that he and his colleagues have been addressing certain complaints and hope to release their next version by the end of the week.

Although the application is currently only available in Hebrew, he confirmed that an English version will be released shortly.

As for now, Lautman said he is pleased with the interest the application has accrued. Google reports thus far have indicated that total downloads to date are somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000, he added.

While the application is free of charge and will remain so, Lautman said that he and his colleagues are developing an air-pollution monitoring platform to sell to the makers of wearable smart devices.

In addition, they are developing a purchasable real-estate report, which aims to provide home-buyers with the air pollution history and current status of their future property, he said.

Clicking on the BreezoMeter application, the user is greeted with a bright and friendly icon, which features the very same elephant whose trunk points out the user’s air-pollution level.

Asked by the Post why the creators chose an elephant to be their mascot, Lautman responded, “We’re trying to make pollution fun.

“Basically, let’s tell the truth – air pollution is not fun,” he said. “So we are trying to make it as fun as possible, and not scary.”
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