Aclima translates billions of air quality data points into environmental intelligence using Google Cloud Platform

It’s no secret that pollution is detrimental to people’s health and contributes to climate change. But what is the air quality that we breathe on particular city streets? That remains largely unknown because ground-level, real-time measurement monitoring in cities has never been done before.

Until now, that is. Aclima, a San Francisco-based company specializing in the design and deployment of environmental sensor networks, set out to measure, map and better understand air quality across America’s cities. Starting with Denver in 2014 and expanding to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2015 and Los Angeles and California’s Central Valley in 2016, Aclima’s Environmental intelligence (Ei) platform tracks air quality block-by-block and neighborhood-by-neighborhood.

The fleet of four Aclima-equipped Google Street View cars have clocked more than 70,000 miles and collected more than 100 million data points to date. Measuring this new layer of environmental data requires not just a roving sensor network to gather information, but a scalable, secure platform to manage what’s quickly becoming one of the largest datasets in the world. Aclima chose to run its platform on Google Cloud Platform because it can handle vast amounts of data and provides scalable growth potential.

“We chose Google Cloud Platform because of its stability, scalability, and resiliency and the robust tools offered across the stack.”

— Davida Herzl, co-founder and CEO, Aclima

Google Street View

Using Google Cloud Platform to track air quality in California and Denver

Aclima’s Ei platform measures many airborne pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, black carbon, particulate matter and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The hyper-local data streams in real-time to an enterprise data warehouse and computing platform built using Google Cloud Platform. Aclima has been developing on Google Cloud Platform since its earliest deployments in buildings, comprising thousands of sensors, which began sending data in 2013 and continues to collect half a billion data points daily.

Google Compute Engine and Google Container Engine support Aclima’s proprietary software translating information from sensors into data points for analysis and writing them to storage, including Google Cloud Storage and Google BigQuery.

In a month-long pilot project in Denver, Google Street View cars equipped with Aclima’s sensor platform drove for 750 hours and gathered 150 million data points on city streets. Using Google Cloud Platform, that data was correlated with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stationary measurement sites to validate and produce hyper-local pollution levels.

Google Earth Outreach

Aclima and Google have since expanded the city-scale, mobile mapping fleet to the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and the Central Valley regions in California. Some of these cities rank among the worst in the U.S. for particulate and ozone pollution.

“With Google Cloud Platform, we don’t have to worry about maintenance, configuration, management and scaling for rapid growth. All that is taken care of, so we can focus on delivering value to our customers and partners,” says Herzl.

Better understanding of hyperlocal environmental risks

Aclima makes its data and analytics available to air quality experts, including the EPA, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the U.S. General Services Administration and the University of Arizona’s Institute for Place and Wellbeing. EPA, Environmental Defense Fund, and others, are already applying Aclima’s city-scale environmental intelligence to better understand how air pollution affects human health in specific communities. Soon, community members will be able to view the data on street-level air quality maps in Google Earth and Google Maps. Giving both citizens and scientists access to the data will help individuals, communities and policymakers better understand and mitigate health environmental risks at the precise locations they occur.

“Google Cloud has given us the tools to scale the Aclima Ei platform for gathering and analyzing a whole new layer of rich environmental data. We believe this real-time information will help policymakers and citizens play more active roles in improving human and planetary health,” said Herzl.