New app for iOS and Android puts air quality in the palm of your hand (or your back pocket)

Air is the most important thing that many of us take for granted every day. We all need a lifetime supply, but most of us barely notice when we’re breathing easy – although we notice pretty quickly when we’re not.

There are many Albertans, however, who can’t take breathing easy for granted. A wide variety of respiratory and other medical conditions can make it harder for our lungs to filter out irritants and pollutants. Young children and older people may also have a harder time breathing when conditions are poor.

When air quality goes down – because of wildfire smoke, industry emissions, urban smog, seasonal changes, or other things – these Albertans need to know, so they can limit their exposure and protect their health. That’s why Alberta has the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).

The AQHI provides easy-to-understand ratings of the air quality in 24 communities in Alberta, from Fort Chipewyan in the north to Lethbridge in the south. Hourly updates, daily forecasts, and special alerts are posted to the AQHI website. If Albertans want the latest air quality info for their community, all they have to do is log on to find it.

There’s only one hang-up: what if you need air quality info when you’re already outdoors or on the move, and not near a computer? Well, we’ve fixed that. You can now access this info using another, much smaller computer – one that you carry around in your pocket or purse every day.

What is this app? 

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The AQHI app provides hourly updates and daily forecasts for more than 20 communities in Alberta (and more to come). It will give you:

  • The level of health risk associated with the current air quality in your area (on the AQHI scale of 1 to 10)

  • The daily air quality forecast for your area

  • Advice on how to interpret this information and minimize the risk to your health

  • Special community-wide alerts when the smell or appearance of your community’s air changes

Do I need it?

 The AQHI app won’t be useful for everyone. But if you have any kind of respiratory condition or other sensitivities to decreased air quality – or if you care for anyone who does – you should consider downloading it. That way, if you ever need the information, it will be as easy as picking up your phone (or tablet).

Is it compatible with my device?

  • This app is both iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android (Smartphone and tablet) compatible.
  • We are currently working on a Blackberry-compatible version of the app and expect to launch it in 2014.

Where can I get it? How much does it cost?

The app is free to download; you can get it here.

2 thoughts on “New app for iOS and Android puts air quality in the palm of your hand (or your back pocket)

    • Thanks for this question, Sharon – it’s a good one, and it gives us a good opportunity to clarify a few things.

      We use and report the same air quality data as the feds do for Alberta – but there are some differences in the way that info is reported through Alberta’s Air Quality Health Index. These differences reflect ways that we’ve enhanced the system to make it as responsive as possible. For example:
      • We incorporate data from several smaller communities that are not reported by the federal system.
      • The flexibility of our system lets us alert specific communities when pollutant concentrations hit certain thresholds, letting them know that they may notice a change in smell or visibility and how they should respond.
      • We upload our data directly as it comes in from the monitoring stations. This means our data is updated 20-30 minutes faster than the federal government’s data (the federal government’s needs to be compiled before being uploaded). When air quality changes rapidly, this can make quite a difference.
      • We have the ability to remove erroneous data (that might be caused by a monitoring station malfunction or power failure, for example) from the data set very quickly – more quickly than Environment Canada can. We are working with the feds to resolve this issue, but in the meantime, it is possible for the two jurisdictions to report different AQHI data. We do communicate with our federal counterparts to limit this possibility as much as possible.

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