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What Should You Look for in an Air Quality API?

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By Emil Fisher on January, 18 2021

Isn’t the air we breathe the same, regardless of the air quality API you choose to integrate? How much can providers truly differ? Here we clear up any confusion and outline the basic questions you should ask before deciding to integrate any air quality API for your business.

1. Where Does the Air Quality Data Come From?

The business of air quality reporting is complicated. If you’re thinking of using this data for your products or marketing, it’s important you understand some of the basic science behind the information you plan to use. Our Guide to Understanding Air Quality Data is a great place to start for deep diving into the differences and limitations related to different methods of air quality data collection and reporting, but we’ll summarize the key points here:

Government Monitoring Stations

Government Monitoring Stations offer a great source of accurate air quality reporting at their location, but providers that rely on this source of information alone will be limited when it comes to providing real-time, predictive and localized information.

While government station sensors are accurate at their location - what about all the areas where there are no sensors? In these places, there will be no reliable coverage. Monitoring stations also typically report with delays of several hours and often don’t report on all the important pollutants.

Low Cost Sensors

Low Cost Sensors also provide a great source of air quality information but similarly offer no coverage where there is no sensor,  no power of prediction and require frequent calibration for guaranteed accuracy. They can also be affected greatly by changing temperature and Relative Humidity, and by their exact placement (e.g. near a chimney vs. in a garden).

Multiple Data Sources

If you’re after actionable air quality information for a consumer focused use case, you will want to ensure the air quality API leverages as many sources of air quality information as possible: Monitoring Stations, Low-cost Sensors, Satellites, Traffic, Fires, Landcover and more. If your audience is international, you’ll also want to confirm the geographical spread of these data sources to ensure your key locations are covered. 

2. Single Model or Complex AI & Machine Learning?

If you plan on using the air quality API to provide reliable real-time and/or forecast information to your user base in a hyper-local way, there will need to be some complex modelling involved behind the data. Unless there is a physical sensor that reports in real-time on every street corner, there is no other way to provide this information.

 

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Especially for health or wellness related purposes, it’s also important to ask for some kind of accuracy backing to ensure the modelling processes used are rigorous and tested.

3. How Does the Air Quality API Present Information?

Different AQIs speak different languages, they are designed differently which makes it very hard to compare like for like. If you’re planning to integrate an Air Quality API for use with an international user base, this is an important point to consider: You will need to ensure the API offers all the AQI scales for your user base and/or a global standard for easy comparisons, travel etc.

For consumer experiences, raw data, even when personalized, provides no real value. If you’re planning to integrate an air quality API for user engagement, it’s important to consider the kind of insights you will need to provide in order to make air quality actionable and meaningful for your audience. 

Meaningful Health Insights 

How easy does the air quality API make it to extract and report the meaning behind air quality to your audience in a personalized and health-focused way? This is very important because this is what will bring the data alive to your user base.

Heatmaps

Visualization of air quality through heatmaps helps to transform an invisible reality into something intuitive and clear to understand. Depending on your use case, air pollution heatmaps might be a prerequisite 

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Individual Pollutant Reporting

As different pollutants affect different people in different ways, individual pollutant reporting is likely to be important both for research and user engagement purposes.

4. Will the Makers of the Air Quality API Help if Something Goes Wrong? 

What if something unexpected goes wrong? For example, you’ve integrated an air quality API then during an extreme wildfire event, the data goes offline, or becomes unreliable? 

This kind of incident could cost your brand a considerable amount of trust so you should consider carefully how important protection against downtime, a dedicated point of contact, and a guaranteed SLA would be for your particular use case.

5. Could You Benefit from Industry Experience Behind the Air Quality API?

If you’re thinking of integrating an Air Quality API for product innovation, it might be important to consider how your data partner provider could help in this respect. Do they have experience working with brands and industries like yours? Can they offer similar types of project innovation that they’ve previously been involved with? 

In this scenario, everyone wants the project to succeed so don’t underestimate the power of proven product and industry experience when it comes to getting your particular project off the ground.

Interested in exploring the differences between air quality API providers in more detail? Download our Business Guide here:

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