App educates on ozone levels

Houstonians are now able to determine air quality levels around the city in real time, with the development of the new OzoneMap app. UH computer science students developed the app under a partnership between the University, Air Alliance Houston and the American Lung Association.

English literature senior Brooke Lightfoot uses the new Ozone Map app on her smartphone to check the daily ozone safety.   |   Nichole Taylor/The Daily Cougar

English literature senior Brooke Lightfoot uses the new Ozone Map app on her smartphone to check the daily ozone safety. | Nichole Taylor/The Daily Cougar

Honors college and philosophy professor Dan Price said the app will assist people who may be concerned with air quality levels in taking precaution because it has a map of Houston that displays color coordinated index values to indicate the amount of ozone in the atmosphere.

Price said although Houston’s air quality levels have improved over time, the app is beneficial for those who may be sensitive to air pollution, like children and the elderly.

“Over the last twenty years the amount of air pollution in Houston has gotten significantly better,” Price said. “What we really should think about is what use this type of science could be for people who have asthma or worries about heart disease and other things that are connected to health affects because of ozone exposure.”

Computer science senior and developer of the android version of the app Ashik Khatri said the app will help people to know when the best times are to go outdoors.

“It is important for people to be aware of ozone in the atmosphere since it is harmful to be outside during a time of high ozone activity,” Khatri said. “By downloading OzoneMap app, people can make informed decisions whether to go outside or not.”

Khatri said if the app shows a red or purple cloud it is advisable to stay indoors until the ozone cloud clears.

Because of UH’s proximity to chemical plants and major highways that emit air pollutants, the OzoneMap app is a key tool to keep members of the university community informed.

“Since UH is close to Pearland, which is a polluted part of town due to a lot of chemical plants, it is important for the UH community to be aware of the harm caused by ozone,” Khatri said. “If you have to walk around on campus then it’s a good idea to be aware and better prepared if the ozone activity is extremely high.”

Representatives from UH, AAH and the ALA were available to answer questions and provide information about the app during a Houston Ozone Action Day event that was held Friday.

Ilyas Uyanik, a doctorate student and developer of the iPhone app version of OzoneMap, said his decision to join the project was to assist in informing the community about the risks of ozone.

“(Ozone) is really bad for our health, as we all know,” Uyanik said. “Since my research interest is in mobile computing and human interaction, I wanted to be a part of this project to help society.”

Uyanik will also assist in the expansion of the app’s capabilities, by adding social integration, data plotting and integrating other cities. The app is currently ranked 4.8 out of 5 in the App Store.

Students should also introduce this app to friends and family, said Khatri. Educators and trainers should check the ozone levels before they take the students out for field trips or training activity. If someone they know has asthma, they can inform them about high levels of ozone possibly inciting asthma attacks.

Uyanik and Khatri said that “OzoneMap” is already accessible for the public to use.

The app is free and available to download for Apple and Android devices. To find it, just search “OzoneMap” in the iTunes store or Google Play store and click download.

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