Android app uses phone camera to measure air pollution

    If you think something is wrong with the surrounding air, now you can find out for sure by simply pointing your phone at the sky.

    Developed by researchers at the University of Southern California, an Android app called Visibility allows users to photograph the sky and get air quality data.
    The free program is currently available for phones based on the Android 2.1 1.6-2.2 operating system .

    “Particles of matter suspended in the air pose a real threat to health and the environment,” the researchers say on their blog . “We are working on an optical technique for measuring air visibility using cameras and other sensors available on smartphones.”

    This is a fresh idea and it will be interesting to see how smartphones give rise to a symbiosis trend of civil science and remote data processing.

    As smartphones become more powerful and more widespread, researchers are increasingly using these devices for complex calculations and remote data collection. For example, in an Intel research lab project called Common Sense, sensors were developed that can be attached to GPS phones and measure ambient air quality. The collected data from these sensors will be returned to the researchers and processed to determine pollution levels.

    The Visibility application hopes to offer something similar, but to make the process more user-friendly. With it, every sky photo taken by the user is tagged with location, orientation, and time. Data is sent to the server where the calculations are made. The level of air quality is estimated by calibrating the sent image and comparing them with the intensity of the existing brightness model in the sky, the researchers say.

    The result is returned to the user, and the data obtained is used to create a map of air pollution in the region. An iPhone version of the application is under development.

    via Wired

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