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With Tools Tracking Air Pollution, Israeli Start-Up Hopes to ‘Democratize Environmental Data’ – Algemeiner

A view shows Highway 89 with burned trees on one side and unburned trees on the other at the site of the Dixie Fire, a wildfire near the town of Greenville, California, U.S. August 7, 2021. REUTERS/Fred Greaves

Whether through the rising incidence of wildfires or the airborne spread of the coronavirus, millions worldwide have been newly confronted this year with the health impacts of bad air quality.

For an Israeli entrepreneur who works to improve how we track pollution, those concerns crystallized years ago, and closer to home: when Ran Korber and his pregnant wife, who has asthma, had finally saved up enough money to buy their first house.

“As an environmental engineer, I knew that air pollution was a major cause for many diseases and a dominant cause for premature birth,” Korber, CEO and co-founder of Haifa-based BreezoMeter, told The Algemeiner.

Korber committed himself to finding the cleanest place in Israel to live, in terms of air quality and environmental hazards. But to his frustration, much of the available data at the time scattered, incomprehensible and largely “useless.”

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With his childhood best friend, then a software engineer, Korber quit his day job and sought develop the data tools needed to find an answer.

“Very quickly, we realized that actually this challenge is not a challenge only in Israel, but a global challenge in the US, Europe, China and India,” Korber recounted. “We founded BreezoMeter with the big, audacious goal to help improve the health, quality of life and safety of billions of people worldwide who might be exposed to environmental hazards like climate change and air pollution.”

As many as 10 million people worldwide die from air pollution each year, according to a study published this year, while the World Health Organization has estimated that air pollution leads to premature deaths of about seven million people annually — largely as a result of diseases like stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

“We are taking a different angle than other companies or other authorities: we are connecting the dot between climate change and people’s health,” Korber added.

Over 400 million worldwide use BreezoMeter’s air quality map platform, through connected devices in more than 100 countries. The Israeli company’s system tracks street-level air quality globally with an algorithm that uses multiple data sources, including 47,000 sensors, navigation data, satellite imagery and other official air-quality monitoring stations.

The algorithm produces real-time air quality forecasts at a 16-foot resolution in cities, using predictive models for everything from real-time traffic pollution to sandstorm weather forecasts, wildfires, and pollen, as well as providing recommendations.

“People use our platform to make informed decisions on how to avoid those environmental hazards, or they use it for example to make sure they take their medicine before they are exposed to pollen,” Korber said. “We get emails on a daily basis of people canceling their son’s or daughter’s soccer game because they saw that there is an air pollution event, and people that evacuated before the wildfires hit their way.”

Korber said the company hopes to reach more than 1 billion people by the end of 2022, by adding to its base of corporate partnerships, which already count AstraZeneca, L’Oreal, Volvo and Dyson. Other existing use cases include an app to inform asthma patients about the right time to go outside, or when they should use inhalers as preventative medicine.

BreezoMeter’s air monitoring technology also appears on the iPhone’s Weather app to check air quality in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Berlin and London.

As life-threatening wildfires become more frequent, affecting air quality and impacting people’s health, Breezometer this summer added a tracker to its air quality maps intended to show the spread of wildfire pollution in real time.

“The public needs the same level of accuracy around fires that they have come to expect of rain, snow, and other traditional weather forecasts,” Korber explained.

Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of other dynamics surrounding air quality.

“There is a link between COVID and climate change,” Korber argued. “Raging wildfires are making air quality worse and what many different researchers found is that people who live in areas with low air quality are more vulnerable to more severe COVID, symptoms because their lungs are not healthy.”

Korber said the company is aiming to apply their existing technology and expertise even more broadly, to include volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and other hazards associated with climate change.

“Our product vision is to democratize all environmental data,” he said.

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