Europeans rate the air quality using the internet
Through Eye on Earth, a repository for geographical environmental information created by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and Microsoft, Europeans can see and rate the air quality with an online application called AirWatch.
|Program Fast Facts
There was no simple way for people in Europe to check the quality of the air where they live, work or visit.
Microsoft and the EEA have developed an innovative, easy-to-use and free web tool to check, compare and share feedback on air quality across the European Union.
- European citizens can now review air quality in advance of arriving at destinations.
- Governments can use the system to help guidepolicy making.
- The site’s social networking features alloanyone to participate by rating, commenting and receiving SMS alerts about their favourite locations.
November 2009 saw the launch of AirWatch, an online solution for sharing data on air quality. It is the second solution delivered through “Eye on Earth Online Environmental Observatory” that will ultimately share critical information on the quality of European water, soil, air and ozone, in one place. The first solution, delivered in July 2008, is WaterWatch, an innovative water quality monitoring tool that covers thousands of swimming spots at European beaches, lakes and rivers.
Gas emissions released into the atmosphere are also a major public health issue. Until now, people in Europe have not had a simple way to check and understand the quality of the air they breathe, or the ability to offer feedback on inconsistencies in reported information. From 6,000 monitoring points across 32 countries in Europe, AirWatch receives various data on air quality. It then presents ratings across the region, in 24 languages.AirWatch uses a traffic-light-style evaluation of air quality based on traditional monitoring methods; this is supported by ratings reflecting the experiences of people who have visited the locations. Combining these streams of information provides accurate and up-to-date information on air quality across Europe, and makes it available to anyone who has access to the internet.
“As environmental problems become more evident and affect the lives of ordinary individuals, it is vitally important that we can access relevant and timely information on the impact of environmental change,” says Professor Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA. “With Eye on Earth, the EEA and Microsoft plan to bring complex strands of information together into a single, simple-to-use and easy-to-understand application — so, as more data and user findings are posted on the portal, we can see how climate change affects the way we live and how the way we live affects the environment.”
“Eye on Earth delivers the kinds of information that the public can really understand,” says Professor Geoffrey Lipman, spokesperson for the UN World Tourism Organization. “Using the application, people can now find out what is happening on the beach and the city near them or the one they plan to visit on holiday. Eye on Earth demonstrates how technology can develop our understanding of the world around us and let us make informed choices on the kind of environment we want to live in or visit.”
“AirWatch supports governments and individuals in tracking and monitoring air purity across 32 European countries, in 24 languages. AirWatch receives various data from 6,000 air quality monitoring stations.”
Silverlight and Bing Maps, Eye on Earth provides a bird’seye view of the areas that users plan to visit, while Microsoft SQL Azure’s data management and geospatial capabilities can analyse large amounts of data and convert it into information that helps users understand the quality of the air they will be breathing. Utilizing new capabilities of ‘cloud computing’ through applications built on Windows Azure will ensure that this information is always quickly and easily available from any internet-enabled device. This includes receiving alerts through SMS. Microsoft is also making Eye on Earth available to over 100 million users of the MSN online media network through specially localized channels in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
”The launch of Eye on Earth with WaterWatch and now AirWatch takes our technology ambitions up a level. Given the increasing data volumes and user access needs, we need new levels of scalability and availability, which we will get through cloud computing solutions,” confirms Professor McGlade.
“Eye on Earth is a great example of how technology has the power to help governments, business and individuals understand what is happening to our environment,” says Jean-Philippe Courtois, President of Microsoft International. “By combining environmental data with mapping technologies, it is possible for people to see where changes are happening. Eye on Earth provides people with information that has historically been difficult to find. With this new application, people will be more informed about the quality of their environment and able to make decisions based on facts not assumptions.”
ABOUT THE EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT AGENCY
The European Environment Agency (EEA) is the European Union body dedicated to providing sound, independent information on the environment. The agency aims to achieve significant and measurable improvements in Europe’s environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy-makers and the public. To find out more about the EEA, visit: http://www.eea.europa.eu/. AirWatch is accessible from http://www.eyeonearth.eu/ and from MSN.
Curious to know the air and water quality in Brussels or in your own city? View the application here.