The air pollution in China has attracted wide attention around the world and led to an explosive downloading of air quality apps. Arguably one of the most popular air quality information apps in the country is Air Matters, which has 9.4 million users and was awarded Best New App several times in the China App Store. It was also among one of the recommended apps by Apple when iPhone 6 and Apple Watch were launched.

With Air Matters, you don’t actually have to open the blue triangular app icon to get a glimpse of air quality data in a certain location. As long as users have chosen the air quality measurements they would like to monitor, it will show real-time air quality information on the desktop. Measurements that the app offers include Air Quality Index (AQI) and PM 2.5.

So far, the app has grown to support 12 languages and six AQI standards to target users around the world.

“We started from China. Indians need our app as their country’s air is polluted,” said Air Matters co-founder Wang Jun. “We included the United States’ AQI standard because it is well recognized in the world. The United Kingdom’s standard is meant to target Europe and other Commonwealth countries.”

The core of an air quality information app is data. Geographically, Air Matters offers air quality information for more than 3,000 cities from 50 countries, and collects information from over 11,000 air monitor stations around the world. In contrast to similar apps, the amount of data collected by Air Matters is extensive. As compared to its foreign counterpart Plume Air Report, it was reported that Plume works in 150 cities around the world.

World air quality map on Air Matters' app. Screenshots from Air Matters app
World air quality map on Air Matters’ app. Screenshots from Air Matters app.

An air quality information database

In addition to AQI and PM 2.5 data, Air Matters has collected data for PM 10, nitrogen dioxide, carbonic oxide, and pollen.

“Concentrations of these six pollutant categories all have a negative impact on humans, some are even fatal,” Wang explains.

With the addition of pollen data in the app, it is not an exaggeration to say that the app is a lifesaver for pollen-sensitive people – at least in the regions that Air Matters currently serves.

Spring is the most dangerous season for allergies when plants begin to bloom. Pollen thrives in dry and windy weather where it spreads far and wide. Likewise, rainy weather prevents pollen particles from traveling in the air.

Air Matters has purchased pollen data from reliable organisations including Pollen.com.

“Overseas companies started providing pollen data much earlier than us. We will do it our way, with more intuitive interfaces and clear layouts. We have updated our app very fast, and that’s how we will meet the challenges and attract users from the United States and Europe,” said Wang.

One thing that reporters and researchers will find handy is that the app provides historical data with time spans of the past week, month, and even years. With well organized historical data, Air Matters is probably the go-to app in this area. For most Chinese cities, it accumulates data for up to four years.

“We started early in the sector, so there is more historical air quality information as compared to our competitors,” said Wang.

International environmental organisation Greenpeace and Peking University’s School of Public Health reached out to Air Matters for data before they published a book on the impact of PM 2.5 on China’s environmental development in January 2016.

Air Matters displays real-time air quality and history data on its app. Screenshots from Air Matters App.
Air Matters displays real-time air quality and history data on its app. Screenshots from Air Matters App.

Part of the smart home system

For those who have air quality monitors or air purifiers at home, Air Matters keeps users informed of the air conditions anytime and anywhere when the app is connected to these devices. So far, the app supports air monitor Laser Egg and Philips air purifiers. Users in China, America, and Canada can connect the app to these monitors and purifiers to stay informed.

What is clever about this app is that it can turn devices such as Laser Egg into a node on a gigantic air quality map, and thus contributing to big data on air quality.

Laser Egg is a Beijing-based AQI monitor gadget startup, while Philips is a Global 500 company. Wang said that they have turned down many gadget companies seeking collaboration.

“Our standards for partners is whether their products are reliable and trustworthy, and whether the company’s business model is healthy and sustainable. We will cooperate with more air monitor manufacturers and air purifier companies in the future,” said Wang.

This is a branded content article written in collaboration with Air Matters.

Read also: Meet Air Matters: the app alerting millions on air quality

(Top photo from Pixabay.com. The story is edited by Christine Low)

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Wang is a contributor at ACT. She is passionate about literature, photography and technology. She graduated from Shanghai University of International Business and Economics.

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