Smart City Air Challenge Awardees Announced

By Ann Dunkin, Chief Information Officer

In August, EPA launched the Smart City Air Challenge and asked communities to create strategies to collect, manage and share data from hundreds of air quality sensors. We understand what a challenging tasks this is and we’re pleased to report that 22 communities responded to the challenge. The depth and breadth of the responses reflect communities’ enthusiasm for managing air quality data and their commitment to collaboration.

We are proud to announce that the City of Baltimore and Lafayette, Louisiana, Consolidated Government were selected as the two awardees of the Smart City Air Challenge. Additionally, four other projects were recognized as honorable mentions for their innovation and potential: New York, New York; Mesa County, Colorado; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.

The projects were evaluated on four criteria: data management, data use, sensor procurement and deployment and project sustainability. The two awardees will receive $40,000 each to deploy air sensors, share data with the public and develop data management best practices. After a year of implementing the projects, both communities will be eligible to receive up to an additional $10,000 based on their accomplishments and collaboration. You can read about the details of the challenge on the website.

We are excited to work with these awardees in the next year. Here are some of their plans:

Baltimore, Maryland: This community intends to engage several partners and neighborhoods to deploy a network of 300 ozone and nitrogen sensors in a phased approach, leveraging a scalable cloud platform for data management. They aim to assemble commercially-available components to build their sensor system and distribute the data on a City of Baltimore website. Partners in this project include Johns Hopkins University, BmoreCool and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability.

Lafayette, Louisiana: This submission proposed a partnership between a university, local government and a nongovernment organization to deploy a network of 300 ozone and particulate matter sensors. The project has a strong data management plan utilizing a scalable cloud platform. They plan to use commercially-available sensors for the project and make the data available to the partners and public in a variety of ways. Partners in this project include the Lafayette Consolidated Government, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and CGI Technology and Solutions.

We received many strong submissions, and we’re recognizing four additional projects with an honorable mention because of their innovation and potential:

New York, New York: has a strong sensor network and platform. The team plans to integrate air quality and weather data. The project has an indoor/outdoor air component and has the potential for other communities to learn from their experience with a network of 380 sensors and the management and use of the resulting data.

Mesa County, Colorado: has a strong grassroots effort with the community taking a proactive ownership role in the project. This project is in a geographically remote county, which will provide ideas for other rural or growing regions.

Raleigh, North Carolina: is a partnership between researchers and the community to better understand air quality, asthma and lung function. They proposed a sensor that is in a watch-like device that requires low energy.

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota: hopes to collaborate with university, city and community partners. The project engages cyclists to carry the sensors, which will clarify pollution levels in specific areas of the cities.

We look forward to working with the awardees and honorable mention projects to share knowledge about how they collect, store and manage large amounts of data. This challenge is experimental in nature and we hope to learn how communities manage data using hundreds of sensors for non-regulatory purposes. The sensors will produce as much as 150 gigabytes of open data per year, which can benefit all communities and researchers. We will encourage these communities and others to share their findings so other communities can learn from their successes, challenges and findings.

I would like to thank everyone who submitted an application. I encourage all the submitting communities to implement your projects. Build upon the collaboration you’ve established with your communities and partners. Please keep us informed of your progress, because EPA and other communities want to learn about your successes and best practices too.

As I mentioned in the post announcing this challenge back in August, I firmly believe that data can make a difference in environmental protection. I look forward to seeing the difference Baltimore and Lafayette and the honorable mention projects make in the coming year. Communities, show us how it’s done!

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