Boy, has the government come a long way when it comes to air pollution. Just half a year ago, if you wanted to know how dangerous the air was in Beijing, your only real option was the US Embassy's @BeijingAir twitter feed, and the Chinese government was desperately trying to stop you from reading that. Now, not only is the Beijing government publishing real-time numbers for the air's PM2.5 (deadly particles) count, it has released a smartphone app so that users can check pollution stats while on the go.
Of course, there are already a lot of third party smartphone apps out there that are making use of Beijing's official data and/or the data from the US Embassy's twitter feed (here's one, for example). But this app, which was produced by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center (BJMEMC), is the first official smartphone app to report air quality data. It is available for both Android and iOS, and can access data from 35 different air quality testing stations around the city that report on the PM2.5 content of the air, as well as five other kinds of pollutants.
Although users can check specific stations manually, the app can also access user locations (on phones that support this feature) so that it can automatically report the air quality data from the test station nearest to the user's position. BJMEMC says that it is aware of the other apps like this on the market, but claims its own app offers more complete and thorough local coverage thanks to the 35 different test stations it accesses.
As you can see from the screens above (from the iPhone app), it's not the prettiest air quality monitoring application out there, but it does what it is supposed to do, and given that it's still leaps and bounds ahead of some other official mobile app projects, I'm not inclined to be too critical about it. And having another choice when it comes to air quality apps can only be good news for consumers, so the release of this app seems like something to celebrate. Interested parties can find the iPhone version here and the Android version here (as an apk download). (Xinhua via Sina Tech, smog image via CBS News)
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