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Google Maps is being used to track air pollution in Oakland and other cities

Google is working with the Environmental Defense Fund and Aclima to monitor and show air quality in select cities, including Oakland, using Google Maps.

Published onJune 6, 2017

If you are an Android phone owner, you likely access Google Maps on a regular basis. You might use it to find a new restaurant, search for the best place to buy groceries, or to monitor how bad the traffic will be when you come home from work. Now Google is revealing the first results of yet another new function of its Maps app. This will allow residents in certain cities to see the specific air quality in their neighborhood.

How to use Google Maps offline
Google Maps GPS Nagivation stock photo

In a blog post, Google says it has been working with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Aclima since 2015 on this project.  Google Street View cars were equipped with devices from Aclima to monitor the levels of nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and black carbon in the city of Oakland, California. You can now see those modified Google Maps on the EDF website.

The Google Maps that have this information show how pollution levels can change in Oakland based on specific locations, street activity, and more. The idea is that posting this data in an easy visual way will assist communities to campaign for better air quality standards in their neighborhoods to their local and state governments. Google has already announced that its Street View cars with Aclima monitoring devices are currently measuring air quality in the Los Angeles and Central Valley regions of California, but they have not yet released data from those metro areas.

This kind of data shows that Google Maps can be useful for more than just navigation. It’s likely that we could see even more scientific uses for Maps in the future.

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