With many UK local authorities studying the possible introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZs), while also encouraging the uptake of healthier forms of mobility, a new smartphone application is being developed that will allow users to find the least polluted routes when walking, running or cycling.
Funded by the European Space Agency (ESA) Kickstarter grant program, and led by air quality monitoring systems developer EarthSense, the CARAMEL (Clean Air Routing and Mobile Exposure Limitation) project is creating an app that identifies and maps the cleanest air routes, as well as reporting on weekly pollution levels.
When combined with records of population movement, the app will also be useful for developing wider clean air strategies. The CARAMEL app will use a combination of space-based data, traffic simulation data, open data, and public transport data, together with big data analytics. The project outputs include an air quality data model and routing system, an online mapping portal, and the CARAMEL app for use on smartphones and other connected devices.
The CARAMEL app will allow users to identify clean routes for healthy exercise choices, as well as accessing data on their actual activity and exposure levels. By collating population movement data EarthSense will also enable key decision makers to identify popular exercise routes or spots, and target resources to improve air quality at these locations.
The project will also assess how other transport options can be integrated to provide a complete picture of mobility. Working alongside project partners Leeds City Council and transportation software developer Aimsun, EarthSense is currently assessing the CARAMEL app and online system in terms of feasibility and potential commercial exploitation.
A joint venture between aerial mapping company Bluesky and the University of Leicester, EarthSense will also investigate the viability of CARAMEL in conjunction with other local government and corporate organizations for staff health awareness, health and travel schemes.
The company has already undertaken a range of air quality monitoring projects, including trials of an airborne air quality mapper, air pollution monitoring equipment on a rocket, and mobile mapping with air quality sensors mounted in electric cars, as well as deploying its Zephyr air quality sensors across the UK and overseas. Future plans include the establishment of a nationwide network of air quality Zephyr sensors, feeding live data for up-to-the-minute air quality predictions.
“Project CARAMEL gives people going about their everyday lives the information they need to make informed decisions about where and when they want to exercise,” explained Tom Hall, managing director of EarthSense.
“Ongoing use of the CARAMEL app allows for adjustments based on actual activity and exposure levels and, by collating data from multiple sources, we can provide intelligence to target resources reducing pollution in popular areas. We are excited to be working with the ESA and the other project partners to make a real difference to people’s lives supporting behavioral change and strategic decision making.”