Mobile apps can help steer users away from polluted city areas

A new mobile application developed by experts at the University of Leicester will use data from Earth observation satellites to pinpoint urban pollution hotspots. The program will advise individuals on whether it is a good time for outdoor activities and will map the best routes to go for a walk or a jog based on air quality.

For individuals with certain health conditions such as heart disease or asthma, outdoor exercise becomes counterproductive and even dangerous on days with high levels of air pollution.

“Whilst we know physical activity is good for many patients with long-term conditions including heart and lung diseases, clinicians are often anxious about recommending exercise and often unable to prescribe accurate and effective exercise for their patients,” explained Professor Andre Ng.

“We will develop a patient-centred mobile app that takes in satellite data with unique resolution including that of air quality that delivers precise guideline-based exercise advice tailored to their condition and ability. This greatly enhances the confidence of both healthcare professionals to prescribe, and patients to put into practice, effective physical activity which improves well-being and reduces healthcare utilization.”

The app will provide users with customized, disease-specific exercise advice based on air quality data obtained in real-time from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite.

EarthSense, a spin-off company from the University of Leicester, is also creating a second application that will help guide traffic management in polluted urban areas.

“Using the information from the app, users can choose to avoid certain high pollution areas, reducing the amount of emissions inhaled, and hopefully divert traffic away from those areas, thereby reducing the levels of pollution,” said Tom Hall, who is the managing director of EarthSense.

The research is being funded by the ESA’s program of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) in partnership with the UK Space Agency and NHS England.

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