Project Aims To Create ‘Neighborhood Watch’ For Pittsburgh Air Quality

Graduate students in Santa Monica, Calif. are collecting hyperlocal air quality data — in Pittsburgh. The hope for the project, run out of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, is that the data collected from at-home sensors will inform public policy. Pardee RAND is an extension of the RAND Corporation, which has an office in Pittsburgh.

Twenty-five PurpleAir sensors were distributed to RAND Corporation employees in Pittsburgh who volunteered to participate in the project. The sensors gather air quality data every 80 to 120 seconds; that information populates an open source map, which shows air quality not only in Pittsburgh, but also all over the world.

Director of Pardee’s Tech and Narrative Lab Todd Richmond, who oversees the project, said it’s like a neighborhood watch for air quality.

“The future of policy and the future of environmental monitoring and decision making really needs to be a collaboration,” Richmond said. “Between government agencies, between the private sector and then individuals and families and neighborhoods.”