Google creates new tool for cities to measure air pollution

By Hannah Figg / Updated: 27 Nov 2019

On 10 October 2019, Google released a new digital tool (‘EIE’) that has given certain European cities the ability to measure levels of air pollution. So far it has been made available in Dublin, Birmingham, Manchester, Wolverhampton and Coventry, with new cities being added over the coming weeks. 

In combination with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), google designed the ‘Environmental Insights Explorer’ (EIE), as a means to:

  • analyse their global mapping data;
  • estimate building and transport carbon emissions;
  • estimate renewable energy potential.

Any global city can nominate itself to be involved through an online form. Amanda Eichel, GCoM executive director, stated: ‘We believe EIE can serve as a critical first step for city sustainability teams to better assess their current situation and more efficiently track and monitor their progress in meeting their climate protection goals.’

The tool is already being tested in Dublin, where city leaders are utilising EIE understanding to advise smart transit programs with the aim of reducing emissions and increasing the use of cleaner travel modes. Owen Keegan, chief executive of Dublin City Council said: ‘Now we can bring Environmental Insights Explorer data analytics to conversations about transportation greenhouse gas emissions and show people the impact of supporting such programs to help start reducing emissions for our entire city which can help inform the debate.’

Starting in Copenhagen, Google is also making new hyperlocal, street-level air quality data accessible. It is part of EIE Labs which will pilot climate focussed datasets as a critical indicator for prioritising and tracking climate action. Rasmus Reeh, senior developer at Copenhagen Solutions Lab said: ‘Measuring ultrafine particles and black carbon at street level are important steps for the City of Copenhagen to understand how we can prioritise actions to secure a clean and healthy city for our citizens. This new data displays the dynamic levels of ultrafine particles and black carbon with a strong overall relation to traffic patterns, but also hotspots like the narrow streets in our old city centre.’

Google has already started distributing air quality data collected through street view cars earlier this year. The cars have accumulated 140,000 miles and 7,000 hours worth of driving data after being equipped with Aclima’s mobile sensor platform to measure:

  • nitric oxide (NO);
  • nitrogen dioxide (NO2);
  • particulate matter (PM 2.5, PM 10);
  • ultrafine particulate matter (PM 0.1);
  • black carbon.

Photo Credit: © NadyGinzburg / - no permission to re-use image(s) without separate licence from Shutterstock.

Article first published on Air Quality News on 11th November 2019.

Monitoring and evaluation