Feedback needed: AirCare - mobile app with PA sensors

Hey all,

I’m Gorjan, a long time eco activist and dev from Macedonia (a small European country).
Since my home city is one of the most polluted places in Europe, 7 years ago I created AirCare, a mobile app that sourced pollution data from many station networks and put it in one place. It triggered many protests, changes in legislation and so much raised awareness (we have won global awards from the United Nations).

7 years later, I quit my job to focus full time on making AirCare a better experience for activists and citizens around the world, not only helping people be informed, but also educating them with blog posts on pollution topics, and empowering them to make the next step by connecting them to local NGOs.

After learning about the forest fires in the US, I decided to expand AirCare there, and loved that I could use the PA API to do so!

Me and my small team are doing a big redesign of the app, so I would love to get some feedback on what you all think we can change or add both from a user experience, and from your personal PA sensors.

Get the app here: https://getaircare.com/download and if you want to try out the PRO features, just drop me a message and I’ll unlock them for you as a thank you for your feedback!

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Hi there, Gorjan,

Greetings from a fellow eco-activist (I moved from a silicon valley software consulting career to do environmental filmmaking and that led me towards extensive low-cost monitoring work). Thanks for your excellent work addressing air quality. I installed your app and decided to just dive right in and bought the Pro account so I could really test it out right away. So far it looks REALLY good! I’m impressed, and I’ve seen a lot! And I have lots of notes:

  • Can you add PurpleAir VOC readings? I have started deploying VOC readings all over the place.
  • Is it possible to add many other types of monitors into your app? For instance, can you include US EPA reference monitors in your readings?
  • I looked at the last week near my house and found a day that was mostly yellow is listed as Green “18” for the day in the calendar view. It is listed as PA | Pittsburgh - Beechwood Boulevard US AQI. Because we have spikes in air pollution in the night and morning here (sometimes dramatic – often bringing us to “worst PM2.5 in the nation” status), I would love to be able to toggle between 24 hour average and “worst air of the day” and also maybe indicate what timeframe is actually averaged (like a 1 hour average interval to determine “worst” or even a 15 minute interval?)
  • The app shows the last 72 hours graphically with the colored bar graph, and I really like that data format. That said, I’d love to be able to see a 7 day report – particularly if I flip my phone horizontally to view.
  • I’d like to be able to set a “favorite pool” of monitors that are averaged to indicate when I will get an alert. That way I can track 3-4 local monitors to get a sense of the general trajectory, instead of just one (which might have some errors or other outage, etc.).
  • I think your “activate” section has lots of potential. I like the idea of potentially finding other air monitor enthusiasts/community based on our mutual interest in a particular monitor. There is probably a whole lot more that can happen here.
  • Can you add the US EPA correction to the settings screen in the main menu?
  • I’ve started exploring the Apple Watch functionality. I’ll let you know when I have more feedback. My initial reaction is that I’m eager to have a complication that grabs the data from my favorite air monitor (or from my selected “pool” of air monitors). Right now it just appears that the complication is a simple link to open up the app. I’d also like the graph of the last 24 hours to show in the Watch view (perhaps swipe to it and then have it remember which screen I like to use?). Seems that the watch is slow with the “getting data” process. Could just be that my watch is old and slow. But it would be nice if this was quicker and/or data transfer was handled more in the background.
  • It would be really helpful if you could scrape the name of the actual PurpleAir monitor that is listed in the favorites. I have lots very close to me (and several at my house) and it would help me keep track of them better if I could know their exact names.
  • I couldn’t figure out how adjust the settings for the alerts. I would REALLY love to be able to set a level of PM2.5 at which I got a notification. This can be tricky because I don’t want to get a million notifications if it stays above the threshold. I have found that many people have different levels of tolerance of polluted air. I’d also like to be able to set alerts at multiple levels. (i.e. I don’t want to jog above 60AQI but I will want to tweet public alerts when it gets above 100AQI. And I really want to know if it goes above 150AQI because that’s just awful). I’d like to adjust the level by single AQI increments, so 63, 65, 114, 203 AQI, etc.). I’d like to set alerts for PM2.5 and VOC levels at a minimum. Eventually I’d like to have ozone alerts as well.
  • Can you use the data to forecast what the monitor will show at my house 42 hours in advance? I think this is possible based on historical monitor data combined with weather forecast data provided at this page → Hourly Graphical Forecast for 40.29N 79.89W . I have found that the Wunderground app has a very simple but effective and powerful “Smart Forecast” that I have tuned to my needs, but it doesn’t specifically try to predict monitor levels at my house, and I don’t know how to make it leverage the detailed information at the NWS, but I would LOVE that information. Here is how I attempt to predict stench at my house in Pittsburgh: #Stinkburgh: Predicting Stench in Pittsburgh | INVERSION . I think that this domain is a perfect place to use some clever AI to look at a wide range of variables to make an excellent forecast. Even a “likely range” would be really great to have. When our air is bad here in Allegheny County/Greater Pittsburgh, it reeks of industrial odors like sulfur/rotten eggs, so there is a huge quality of life piece to being able to forecast when it will smell. Like rain, it can ruin an otherwise perfectly good outdoor event. Happy to discuss this more. (There is even a SmellPGH app with open data that tracks public complaints of air quality here: https://smellpgh.org/ .)
  • It appears that your monitor regards the newly updated PurpleAir Plantower hardware as reporting “possibly wrong measurements.” I think that there is an extensive post about the differences here: New version of Plantower PMS5003 - #6 by Mark_from_Pittsburgh . I think that they are definitely different than the original PurpleAir hardware but to exclude them seems to be a bit of an extreme response. I would really like to be able to see them (and this will be a problem for your app as more and more people deploy these newer monitors with the new Plantower units).

I have given lots of quick suggestions here, but overall you’ve done a really nice job. It appears to be easy to use and stable on my iPhone Xs. Thank you for creating it, and I can’t wait to see future revisions!!

Always Monitoring,
Mark

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Mark, you are AMAZING! Thank you soooo much for all this detailed feedback, we really appreciate it in the team! Since we’re doing a feature redesign, we’ll take all this into account and hope to see it implemented in the coming months. Thank you again!

Well done! very interesting, I’m trying the app…
At first sight, I see that many stations (sensors) are missing. Maybe the app loads new sensors every few months… right?

Hey there! We load new sensors every day, but skip over the indoor ones (so we can compare only outdoor to EPA outdoor ones). Do you see any outdoor ones that are missing?

yes, I had seen some uncovered areas that I know have external sensors, perhaps I have found marginal cases or search new sensors is not daily in all countries?
I’ll check it as soon as I can

I downloaded the app and spent a little time playing with it. Here are some of my initial thoughts.

I agree with Mark’s comments and will echo the request of showing VOC’s. I’ve installed a PA with the BME680 at my place in Colorado so it does report VOC to the map, and I know that after the severe fire in Louisville/Superior neighborhoods this past winter a lot of VOC sensors went up within the burn area (see forum post here).

  • Upon opening the app it correctly selected the closest monitor (which is mine of course) but initially I couldn’t tell if it was showing mine because I could not find the station name. Any chance to also show the station name as listed in the map?

  • I did not purchase the Pro version so I couldn’t test the Apple Watch app, but I downloaded an Apple Watch only app from a different developer that actually seems to connect directly to my station using its IP address. I assume this work since I’m on my home network which the PA is also connected to. It’s a neat idea and perhaps could be a Pro feature for realtime data from one’s own sensor(s). Here’s a link to that free app.

  • Any chance to see the other parameters (could be a Pro feature)? I can see myself using the app to just do a quick check of my own sensor (temp, humidity, pressure, as well as diagnostic looking at WiFi signal strength or uptime). I don’t know if these are reported as part of the API, but it’s reported on the map, so figured I’d ask.

  • I like the map and the graph at the bottom of the map. Anyway to show the graph as it does in the PA map instead of just bars? I personally like line plots, as well as seeing ChA and ChB.

  • Is there a way I can see a stations reported “confidence”? It’s displayed on the map when one clicks a station and is how close ChA and ChB are to each other.

That’s all for now. I’m using an iPhone X. I have cycled through quite a few air quality apps, so looking forward to seeing what new features this one will bring.

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Hello,

I know people in Skopje, and just out of curiosity have monitored their air there. There used to be a PurpleAir monitor in Skopje, but now seems to be gone. I wonder if you were familiar with these sites:

I agree that MK can be pretty polluted. I’ve also noted, from monitoring map.purpleair.com, that Bosnia and Herzegovina can be worse. There is a city, Foca, which appears to be the worst in Europe many times.

Regards,
Robert

Hey Robert,

Yes indeed, they are some of AirCare’s competitors! But the one main thing they lack is community engagement. We try to get our users to connect with local NGOs, to their events and to put pressure on governments. That is how we made some of the biggest air pollution protests in Macedonia and Serbia after we launched.

We’re slowly making collaboration agreements with NGOs in some countries and adding them and their events to AirCare. Hopefully in the future we can make it an automated effort.

Gorjan,

Good luck with that effort, and raising awareness. It’s well overdue, in MK and worldwide.

Best,
Robert