Air pollution is a major environmental and health concern in Hong Kong and the largest environmental health risk, according to the World Health Organization, tying it to seven million premature deaths globally in 2016. Yet many of us accept it as part of city living.
In a bid to help city dwellers take their health into their own hands, HKUST's Institute for the Environment recently launched a game-changing mobile app that lets users monitor air quality to reduce their exposure to air pollution.
Titled PRAISE-HK (Personalized Real-time Air-quality Informatics System for Exposure), the app provides real-time air quality and health risk information and forecasts, down to the street you are at, up to two days in advance, helping Hongkongers live a smarter and healthier life.
One of the world-leading technologies behind the app is our dynamic transport modeling.
It tracks and analyzes readily available roadside emission data from 30,000 Hong Kong road segments, covering four million daily traffic patterns across public and private transport to estimate roadside emissions.
The app can also incorporate emission data covering southern China down to the urban road network over Hong Kong to simulate air quality levels in its forecasts.
Its accuracy is enhanced by simulating the effects of building features like building heights or cantilevers on the flow of pollutants along streets.
By using big data and artificial intelligence to analyze public information such as the real-time changing road traffic conditions data or the pollutant concentration level caused by varying vehicular speeds in our database, the app can provide the current air quality analysis down to street level with accuracy exceeding 90 percent and also provide forecasts for the next 48 hours.
For the next phase, we have been using portable sensors to collect indoor and outdoor pollutant data at 200 sites, covering environments such as schools, office buildings, MTR platforms and cars, buses, etc. With these data, the app can predict and compare pollutant exposure in different locations at different times by tracking users' daily traveling routes.
By 2021, users can submit their physical symptom status related to air pollution through the app.
The data will be analyzed and used for creating a personal pollution risk profile, generating health alerts when the app "thinks" you should choose a cleaner air route.
Ultimately, we hope that with the air pollution data collected and analyzed by the app, policymakers can also be advised and informed to see if measures to curb air pollution problems are effective, what areas are most polluted, and what kinds of further actions should be taken to reduce air pollution.
After all, all these works are important for achieving the third Sustainable Development Goal of the UN 2030 agenda, which focuses on "good health and well-being for all."
Every step we take to reduce air pollution health risk is crucial in achieving this important goal.
Learn more and download PRAISE-HK app here: http://praise.ust.hk/
The article was published in The Standard on July 24, 2019.