Section: New Software and Platforms

Ambiciti App & Platform: Monitoring the Exposure to Environmental Pollution

Participants : Valerie Issarny [contact] , Cong Kinh Nguyen, Pierre-Guillaume Raverdy, Fadwa Rebhi.

URL: http://ambiciti.io

Is your exposure to noise too high on certain days? How is air pollution in your street? Will air quality improve in the next hours? Do you want to measure the noise pollution on the way between your home and your office? What pollution levels are considered harmful for your health? Ambiciti (previously SoundCity) provides answers to these questions and many others through dedicated Apps and Platforms that leverage Inria research results in the area of mobile distributed systems (from MiMove team) and data assimilation (from Inria CLIME team). The Ambiciti app is available for download on both the App and the Play stores. Starting December 2016, the Ambiciti software solutions are licensed to the Ambiciti start-up.

Monitoring exposure to noise pollution: Noise pollution is a major environmental health problem, with an estimated number of 10,000 premature deaths each year in Europe. The 2002 European environmental noise directive defines a common approach intended to avoid, prevent or reduce the harmful effects of noise. It requires the determination of exposure to environmental noise in major cities, through noise mapping. Until recently, this has been done solely through numerical simulation. Daytime, evening and nighttime averages are generally produced, without distinction between the different days of the year. Also, it is difficult to fill the gap between a noise map and the actual exposure of people where they live and stay. This motivates to monitor noise pollution where and when people are exposed. One promising direction is to make use of the noise sensors that people carry most of the time, i.e., the microphones embedded in their mobile phones.

Ambiciti (previously called SoundCity as it was initially focused on the monitoring of noise pollution) measures the actual noise levels to which individuals are exposed using such an approach, while taking into account the relatively low quality of the collected measurements. Ambiciti can then monitor noise levels throughout the day and inform users about their instantaneous, hourly and daily exposures.

In addition to the monitoring of the individual exposure to the noise pollution using mobile phones, the collective exposure may be derived from crowd-sensing. The adoption rate of mobile phones makes it possible to collect a huge amount of observational data about the noise pollution at the city scale. Recent studies have indeed highlighted the emergence of new environmental monitoring schemes leveraging the combination of mobile phones-embedded sensors and citizen participation. Ambiciti then leverages a mobile phone sensing middleware for collecting noise measurements at the urban scale, which are then assimilated toward the production of real-time pollution maps.

Monitoring exposure to air pollution: The Ambiciti app delivers information about the exposure to air pollution, providing hourly air quality maps, which are computed using numerical simulation. Depending on the user's location, the user may have access to hourly air quality maps, at street resolution, in real time and for the next two days. Currently, only Paris (France) and the Bay area enjoy such high resolution maps, but other cities are on the way to be included.

Mobile app features: Ambiciti is easy to use, while featuring various functions to meet different levels of user engagement (from passive monitoring to citizen scientists):

  • Measuring noise level, anytime on demand or automatically during the day,

  • Providing air quality indexes (according to the EU definition), in the past, present and future hours or days, together with pollution levels for nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone,

  • Displaying statistics on exposure to pollutions, hourly, daily, during daytime and nighttime, for both noise and air.

  • Displaying maps with own's noise measurements and/or hourly NO2 levels (including street-level resolution for Paris and the San Francisco Bay area)

  • Promoting citizen science where communities of users may engage into the intensive measurement of noise in order to analyze a given journey or to map neighborhoods.

  • Providing pollution-aware routing.

  • Calibration of the smartphone for noise monitoring, automatically with Ambiciti database or manually with a sound level meter,

Privacy: The Ambiciti app has been designed with privacy in mind, which especially holds in the case of noise pollution monitoring. It is in particular important to stress that actual sound samples are never stored on the phone or uploaded to the Ambiciti servers. Only the amplitude of the sound in dB(A) is calculated, and uploaded provided the user's permission. An anonymous identifier is further created for each device for distinguishing between the data sent by different users, while no identifying information is collected. Further detail may be found from the App information page.

The Ambiciti platform is developed in collaboration with the Inria CLIME team together with The Civic Engine and the NUMTECH SMEs in the context of CityLab@Inria and Inria@SiliconValley, and with the support of the EIT Digital Env&You activity.