New app gives clear view of street-level pollution - RTHK
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New app gives clear view of street-level pollution

2019-06-22 HKT 14:18
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  • Professor Alexis Lau says they're hoping to add more features to the app, to allow for more personalised predictions of a user's exposure to air pollutants. Photo: RTHK
    Professor Alexis Lau says they're hoping to add more features to the app, to allow for more personalised predictions of a user's exposure to air pollutants. Photo: RTHK
Alexis Lau speaks to RTHK's Richard Pyne
Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have launched a new app that promises to give people a more accurate picture of their exposure to toxic air pollutants.

The new PRAISE-HK app gives users readings on pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulates down to the street level.

The government's current monitoring network has 16 fixed stations that measure the average air quality over a district.

"If you have asthma, if you have allergies, then you want to know a lot more," said the app's principal investigator Professor Alexis Lau. "So in a sense, our app was really thinking about what we call the sensitive sub-groups. But we hope the general public will use this app to understand a little better about air quality issues."

He told RTHK's Richard Pyne that users of the app can use it to plan their routes throughout the day to avoid areas with high pollution. It can also warn users if places they have bookmarked can expect poor air quality.

Lau said the app relies on a combination of many technologies working together.

"Now we have real-time traffic information, we have a lot of very detailed wind prediction models, and real-time measurements," he said.

"We use big data to combine all this to be able to actually identify air quality at individual streets down to very high resolution. So this is possible only with the smart-city infrastructure that Hong Kong has put in."

Friday's launch was only phase one of the app's development. Lau said they are aiming to include features that will allow people to measure their exposure to pollutants based on their activities and locations, so they can suggest alternatives.

They are also looking into providing users with personalised exposure predictions, but this probably wouldn't come until after 2021.