Urban AirQ

Filling in the blind spots of urban air quality in Amsterdam, together with citizens.

Air quality in cities and its impact on public health is currently a growing concern, receiving ample attention from policymakers, scientists and general public. New emerging technologies enable air quality measurements to be crowdsourced and are considered to be a promising complement to the sparse official measurements. To successfully apply these new air quality observations, two issues must be addressed: which incentives do citizens have to be actively involved, and how to quantify the added-value of alternative measurements with respect to official monitoring stations. While exploring these issues, Valkenburgerstraat and Kromme Waal in Amsterdam are central in this study.

Air quality and its relation to health is an urban challenge, receiving a lot of attention. However, making sensible measurements of air pollution is very difficult, as very small concentrations can already be harmful. Despite a dozen official air monitoring stations installed in the city of Amsterdam measuring numerous air pollutants (Luchtmeetnet, 28-09-2015), it is known that the traditional monitoring network is unable to capture local variations in air quality. And mainly because of financial motives, extending the traditional monitoring network is too expensive. This is why policymakers and scientists are looking for alternative and additional solutions, to map air quality variation inside cities. In particular, by the fast development of new emerging sensor technologies, crowdsourcing is considered as one of the most promising alternatives to collect information.

Citizen Sensing

With simple sensors and smartphone, it is not possible to measure and share. Everyone can and can do that. Local residents in the area of the Valkenburgerstraat and Weesperstraat could participate in this research to find out more about air quality in their street.

A second advantage of crowdsourcing is that awareness, next to technical innovation, is considered to be a successful strategy to stimulate behavioural change and reduce the air pollution emissions with cleaner air as a result. Participation of the public is therefore very valuable. As a nice side-effect, it offers the possibility to alert individuals and make personal recommendations to minimize their exposure to polluted air, and as a result improve the health of the general public. However, existing initiatives to involve the public in air quality monitoring, like iSPEX, IkHebLast and MijnLuchtkwaliteit (see also ‘Related information’) show there are still multiple challenges to tackle. The focus of this project is on the challenges concerning community building, data gathering and data assimilation from official and alternative data sources (e.g. crowdsourcing).

Project Contact: Thijs Turel. 

Additional info

Image credits

Header image: Urban_AirQ.jpg

Icon image: Urban AirQ by AMS Institute.png