By Erik Crouch
Although not as cute as Shanghai’s perky lung-cancer mascot, Beijingers now have access to a variety of smiley faces and colored dials to check in on their city’s PM2.5 content, courtesy of a new smartphone app developed by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center. Although a variety of other apps already exist to check the city’s air quality (or “chunkiness”), this is the first from the official city government, and is likely hoping to quell the growing discontent among Beijing residents directed at the government.
When “Airpocalypse” began, the Monitoring Center’s hourly air ratings did not include PM2.5, and therefore broadcast a significantly cheerier report than the U.S. embassy’s “Everyone should avoid all physical activity outdoors” updates. Following Airpocalypse, however, the Monitoring Center has realized that fudging figures doesn’t get you very far if any resident with eyes and/or lungs can realize that something is terribly, terribly wrong. So far the Monitoring Center’s stats match-up well with the US Embassy’s tweets, and the new app seems reliable, if a bit on the ugly side. Now that the Beijing government has admitted that PM2.5 is a problem, perhaps they will do something about city’s air quality before it jumps off the charts again.