Today we review a paper that explores an approach that uses personal mobile phones equipped with GPS tracking ability to estimate the exposure of a group of individuals to air pollution and make these estimates available in real-time at low cost. Such a method could be applied in developing countries where expensive monitoring equipment is often unaffordable. The potential of gathering information such as this from a wide segment of society also opens up very large opportunities for progress in public health by collective tracking of large numbers of people.
“Based on a synthesis of the best available evidence, the HEI (Health Effects Institute) identified that an exposure zone within a range of up to 300 to 500 metres from a major road as the area most highly affected by traffic emissions”
“we propose a conceptual framework to improve exposure assessment by using existing, low cost mobile phone data to obtain individual trajectories to further estimate the concentration of the traffic emission in the roadway network and its contribution to exposure for the urban population.”
“This approach is promising due to the following characteristics:
- Low cost: There is no cost from the observation part. .. Combination of low cost and standardized mobile phone data makes it is feasible to do population-wide traffic pollution studies….
- Near real-time: The system is based on fully automatic calculation and real-time data. One may obtain real-time pollution/exposure fields. This allows identification of high vehicle density congestion events that may contribute significantly to health risk
- Effortless citizen participation: Each trajectory reflects one individual citizen. … We believe that using the trajectories of individual mobile phones opens up new perspectives on urban dynamics and public health research.