Poland has a big problem. Every year with the start of the warm season, Poles have to struggle with air pollution. It kills almost 50,000 people prematurely every year. According to WHO, 33 of the 50 most polluted cities in the European Union are located in Poland . Few days a year, Polish cities are higher than Chinese in global air pollution rankings.
We can identify three main sources of this problem:
This last factor has the greatest impact on winter smog in Poland. In large cities, almost 50% of pollution is caused by heating houses.
The main factor here is the fuel used by homeowners, who use low quality poisonous materials. Outdated heating systems are less important, although still important. As a result, several houses can poison the whole housing estate.
As a team of product developers we decided to join the fight against this problem. We want to use our skills to raise awareness of Polish people about air quality in the country. We are convinced that this is the first step towards a more effective fight against smog.
Today, there are several services on the market that aggregate data from air sensors. Airly is the leader on the Polish market. The company has a dense network of sensors throughout the country. On the basis of measurements, a map of the current state of air quality is created from the sensors. Thanks to this we know what is the air quality in large areas. Such systems increase the awareness of Poles about the quality of air in the country.
We decided to take a slightly different approach to this problem. For a while now we have been working on an solution for information crowdsourcing. We used it to get to know the places with the highest emission of pollutants based on user reports. Our goal was to get information from local people who see the problem everydays. As a result, we created a map of areas that need support in communicating the problem of air pollution. People living in this areas need to be made aware of how harmful their actions can be.
Map of Poland created by users using our solution.
Awareness is the basis for effective fight against the smog. Preventive and educational activities can be planned on this basis. It will also provide specific data for local government decision-makers and NGOs. Kopci.com help identify areas requiring support in raising awareness of air quality.
One of the challenges we faced was how initial users perceived our platform. Some of them perceived our tool as a denunciation machine to report their neighbours. Fortunately, from the very beginning we present our data in an anonymous way. In response to users' concerns, we started to communicate our platform in a different way. We exposed the anonymity of the data and started to talk about the purpose of our activities. We managed to involve more people and convince users of our good intentions.
kopci.com was created as a result of the impulse of a group of programmers, who wanted to do something good for their community. As such, it did not have a clear goal from the very beginning. We know that we have several ways in which we can lead our platform. As of today we would like to become a centre of smog-related information. We want to inform about the actions that every citizen can take to improve the air quality in their area. We are aware that this goal can evolve and we are open to it.
The technical challenge we faced while creating the platform was the quality of data that we collect from users. Our system works in a way that allows everyone to add a source of smog everywhere. This means that malicious people can add emission sources, e.g. in the parks. To deal with this threat, we developed smart algorithms that give weight to reports and help to mitigate the impact of poor data quality.
As of today kopci.com is the only platform of this type operating nationwide. We collect information about places that are the source of air pollution. Users have already reported more than 1200 points and this number is growing every day. We receive a lot of emails, which confirm our belief that the operation of our platform is justified.
Our goal is to collect as much information as possible from users by the end of this warm season. We want to have a accurate map of places that suffer from poisonous neighbours. Thanks to our solution we will be able to help reach more people who are not aware of the fact that they can be a source of air pollution. We want to enlighten them on what consequences this has for them and their environment. We want to mobilise people to take local actions towards healthier air in Poland.
Screenshots from kopci.com application
Link to the project www.kopci.com