Linda Poon at CityLab: “It’s not only your friends and family who follow your online selfies and group photos. Scientists are starting to look at them, too, though they’re more interested in what’s around you. In bulk, photos can reveal weather patterns across multiple locations, air quality of a place over time, the dynamics of a neighborhood—all sorts of information that helps researchers study cities.
At the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, a research group is using crowdsourced photos to create a low-cost alternative to air-pollution sensors. Called AirTick, the smartphone app they’ve designed will collect photos from users and analyze how hazy the environment looks. It’ll then check each image against official air quality data, and through machine-learning the app will eventually be able to predict pollution levels based on an image alone.
AirTick creator Pan Zhengziang said in a promotional video last month that the growing concern among the public over air quality can make programs like this a success—especially in Southeast Asia, where smog has gotten so bad that governments have had to shut down schools and suspend outdoor activities. “In Singapore’s recent haze episode, around 250,000 people [have] shared their concerns via Twitter,” he said. “This has made crowdsourcing-based air quality monitoring a possibility.”…(More)”