By Jared Mendenhall
In December 2017, when the Wasatch Front choked on a ten-day-long inversion that clogged the valleys with PM2.5 pollution, more than 50,000 Utah residents stayed on top of air-quality conditions by using the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) mobile app: UtahAir.
UtahAir delivers hourly air-quality data for two pollutants, PM2.5 and ozone. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulatory monitors in 12 Utah counties provide the data. Action alerts notify people when pollution levels are high. The app also includes color-coded health guidance from EPA’s Air Quality Index (AQI). The three-day forecast helps people plan their travel and work schedules during pollution events.
As mobile has become an important part of everyday life, it has empowered users with a wealth of information. In the case of the UtahAir app, this information can be vital. When PM2.5 and ozone pollution reach unhealthy levels, vulnerable populations experience respiratory and cardiovascular stress. If the air quality is really bad, it affects all of us. Awareness of conditions can help change driving habits and protects human health.
DEQ released its first version of the app in 2013. Students at Weber State’s National Center of Automotive Science & Technology (NCAST) partnered with scientists at DEQ to build versions of the app native to the iOS and Android platforms. The apps were a success and nearly 20,000 users downloaded it in the first year.
As technology evolved, so has the app. Annual updates have added new features and improved tried-and-true ones. The 2018 update is slated for release the first week of February. Users will find a few new features in store:
The latest version of the UtahAir app was completely rewritten in a universal mobile language that services both iOS and Android platforms. This means users can expect a more robust platform delivering hourly updates from our monitors.
Convenience and customization are key to the latest update. New features include a GPS function that allows users to quickly check the nearest monitor. Users can also earmark and follow monitors from across the state.
With local and state regulations in place on days calling for “Voluntary” and “Mandatory” action, alerts are now front and center in the app. This lets users know whether they can burn solid fuels on a given day.
Features users have grown to love return, too. This includes trend charts with one-hour and 24-hour data, current weather conditions and EPA’s color-coded AQI.
Additionally, Utah’s tribes will continue to provide air-quality data to the app from monitors on tribal lands in the Uinta Basin and northern Box Elder County. This data provides an important peek into the Uinta Basin’s unique ozone pollution in the winter.
Look for the updated UtahAir app in the coming weeks. If you haven’t already downloaded the UtahAir app, visit the App Store or Google Play and search UtahAir. The updated apps make it easier for users to find exactly what they’re looking for.
I am a public information officer for DEQ and a former marketer and magazine editor. Follow me on Instagram @Jarv801.