Smell Pittsburgh is a mobile phone app designed to engage Pittsburgh residents in tracking pollution odors across our region. The app also includes a map-view showing smell reports submitted in the area on a given date
Runs offline: partially (a connection is required to view the map)
Last update: Android 22/11/2016 (v. 1.7.3) – iOS 24/11/2016 (v. 1.7.3)
Website of the developer: Create Lab
The app is an example of communities coming together to track and report pollution events based on human senses. Although the tool was built for Allegheny County, PA, other communities are able to use the app to track odor pollution. The only drawback is that reports outside of Allegheny County won’t be sent to the corresponding local health department.
Its operation is very simple:
- Upon entering the application, a small form is displayed in which the user must describe how intense the smell is. PTo facilitate this task, a classification based on five levels is included, from “fine” (in green) to the worst (in brown). The form also requires a description of the odor (if it is of industrial origin, wood smoke, etc.) or odor-related symptoms (headache, sore throat, eye irritation…). You can include also a personal note addressed to the county health department.
Although to notify of pollution episodes it is not necessary to provide personal data, in the Settings option it is recommended to include the name and email of the complainant in order to ensure the authenticity and effectiveness of the report. Also pointing out that in this tab there is an option to activate different types of notifications.
- The tab of the map allows to consult the reports made by the different users based on a certain date. The map includes two types of information: the reported bad odor, whose intensity is represented by a triangle of different colors, and the particle concentration 2.5 μm (PM2.5), represented by a circle. For the current day, the app also shows the direction of the wind and the AQI index registered by the city.
Images: Screenshots 13/02/2017. ©Create Lab
The odoriferous pollution is the contamination caused by bad odors that you can perceive when you’re outdoors or indoors with the windows open and which can become a nuisance. This type of pollution is an increasing problem in several cities, affecting to an important percentage of the population (it is estimated that in cities like Madrid or Barcelona this value arise to 25 %). Although this contamination does not in all cases imply toxicity, it can be annoying and lead to discomfort or respiratory problems, as the previous linked website of the ATSDR cites.
According to bibliography, one of the methodologies to measure the odor impact is the number of complaints submitted. This assessment system, in which the subjective component is also important, is the base over which Pittsburgh has designed its app, facilitating the work of denunciation by citizens almost in real time and alerting to the authorities when repeated complaints about a source of foul odor are received. It is also interesting that the app incorporates information about the concentration of PM2.5 and the AQI index, although it would be useful to include a brief explanation about the nature or effect of these two elements.