Choosing a healthier route through your city, with Airflow

As part of our AI for Earth commitment, Microsoft supports five projects from Germany in the areas of environmental protection, biodiversity and sustainability. In the next few weeks, we will introduce the project teams and their innovative ideas that made the leap into our global programme and group of AI for Earth grantees.   

Lisa Bouikidou and Stefan Hackländer work in the field of Global Projects & Innovations at the automotive supplier WKW. In addition, they share a common interest in technology, environment and climate issues, which has motivated them to form a startup called fivemoreminutes. 

Soon after, they heard the call for Microsoft Berlin´s and Fraunhofer CeRRI´s EarthLab, and applied immediately. Ten days later they were in Berlin, where they met industrial engineer Sebastian Windeck, data scientist Majid Mortazavi, technology consultant Günter Reuscher and innovation consultant Roland Heß. The latter initially came up with the idea, and things at the EarthLab swiftly fell into place. 

As a somewhat older, but physically active Berliner, Hess often wonders: “Is it still healthy to go for a run through this smoggy city?” Within just one hour the idea of improving the common air quality monitoring systems emerged. Today, fixed air quality stations are normally found at traffic lights or intersections – places with naturally high air pollution. This makes sense to protect local residents, but it does not help with providing information about the air quality at other points in the city. This makes it harder for people to make better-informed decisions about the best air quality locations throughout their day. 

People smiling on stage

Airflow is the name of the team’s solution that uses mobile sensors, which can be attached to taxis, buses, bicycles or even backpacks, ultimately creating a comprehensive picture of the air quality throughout the city. The data from the sensors will be aggregated in the Azure cloud, analysed using artificial intelligence (AI) and made available via an app.  

Athletes and walkers are given suggestions for the healthiest routes, along with warnings of high air pollution on certain routes. “In the first step, we are targeting consumers, but we think bigger,” explains Stefan Hackländer, “in the medium term, we also want to fuel the political debate on air quality and have a solid basis for decision-making for urban planning.” 

Following the EarthLab, Airflow has been accepted into Microsoft’s AI for Earth program. Since then, the entire team meets virtually once a week on Microsoft Teams to discuss the next steps, while sharing knowledge. Recently, the team already had exploratory talks with the Berlin public transportation authority, which has expressed interest to attach mobile airflow sensors to their buses. 

Further connections already exist to India and Africa, where programmers are recruited, and the concept itself is marketed. Air quality is a universal problem, which Airflow wants to tackle with its solutionThe project was also presented and met with a positive response at the Korean Global Adaptation Week in May, which was organized within the UNFCCC 

AI for Earth
The AI for Earth program helps researchers and organizations to use artificial intelligence to develop new approaches to protect water, agriculture, biodiversity and the climate. Over the next five years, Microsoft will invest $ 50 million in “AI for Earth.” To become part of the “AI for Earth” program, developers, researchers and organizations can apply with their idea for a so-called “Grant”. If you manage to convince the jury of Microsoft representatives, you´ll receive financial and technological support and also benefit from knowledge transfer and contacts within the global AI for Earth network. As part of Microsoft Berlin´s EarthLab and beyond, five ideas have been convincing and will be part of our “AI for Earth” program in the future in order to further promote their environmental innovations. 

At #DigitalFuerAlle you can continue to follow the development of the projects and our #AIforEarth initiative. 

Would you also like to apply for a grant from the “AI for Earth” initiative? 

Apply now 


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