By Philip Harrison
Wondering what the air quality is like today? Is it OK to exercise? Should you take transit to work? Thanks to an air quality app developed through a partnership between Weber State University and the Division of Air Quality (DAQ), you need look no further than your smartphone. The new UtahAir app delivers real-time air quality information to your mobile device—anytime, anywhere.
In 2010, Joe Thomas, section manager for mobile sources at DAQ and director of the National Center of Automotive Science & Technology (NCAST) at Weber State, suggested that NCAST develop an air quality phone app. We thought it was great idea. Our staff—Weber State students R.D. Hunt and Brian Magness, and Chris Woodhaven and myself—spent the next year buying phones and computers to use in developing the app. It took us awhile to figure out how to create programs for the smartphones, but eventually we got a prototype working.
We spent the next year creating an Android version of the UtahAir app, fine-tuning it for performance and aesthetics. We had several people from DAQ test each version and report back to us if they found any bugs. Folks from DAQ also made suggestions on how we could improve the app, which proved very helpful. Once we were satisfied with the Android version of the app, we started development of a version for the iPhone.
We planned to release the Air Quality app for both platforms just before the PM2.5 season began in 2013. We were pleased when DAQ was able to launch the app in November 2013. R.D. Hunt, Weber State University student, works on developing the Air Quality App.
The new app shows air quality levels for two pollutants, PM2.5 and ozone, in 11 Utah counties. Action alerts notify people when pollution levels are high. The app also includes color-coded health guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Air Quality Index (AQI). The three-day forecast helps people plan their travel and work schedules during the winter inversion or the summer ozone seasons.
We were frankly surprised by the public response to the Air Quality app. We only expected a few thousand people to download the app, but thanks to DEQ’s public outreach efforts, to date we’ve had more than 10,000 downloads for the iOS version of the app and 7,400 Android downloads.