Google Maps for Android and iOS will now display an Air Quality Index (AQI) overlay on the map grid using data gathered from government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency in the US and data collected from PurpleAir’s network of sensors.
Tapping on these AQI overlays reveals more information about the impact of the current AQI on health, the time and source of the last reading and links to more relevant information. At the time of writing, the feature is currently active in parts of the US, Australia and India. Google’s Nest line of speakers and smart displays can also fetch this data.
To see the AQI layer, open Maps, tap the layer button and select the AQI layer in the bottom-right. From there on, you’ll be able to see small AQI overlays from locations housing sensors or have data available. In New Delhi, India, this data seems to be coming from the Central Pollution Control Board.
What’s interesting here is the hyperlocal street-level data from PurpleAir’s relatively low-cost sensors. They work by shining a laser through the air and then picking up reflections caused by particles in the air.
The sensors became a popular way to track wildfires across the US West Coast back in 2020 when Google added a wildfire layer to Maps. Data for this layer mainly was pulled for the National Interagency Fire Center in the US and corresponding agencies in other regions.
However, users should keep in mind that just like the wildfire layer, this layer also depends on data from government agencies and isn’t as comprehensive. Users should only take it as an approximation and indication of what the air in a particular region will be instead of a metric.
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