Brussels, 14 October 2010
ICT research: EU funded project helps to map pollution
Real time maps of air, ground and water pollution can now be made available to everyone thanks to an EU-funded research project called INTAMAP. The INTAMAP project has developed open specifications software to draw up contour maps that not only show the exact location of polluted areas but also illustrate where pollution is coming from and where it is headed. Such information enables public authorities to decide more quickly on appropriate action to tackle the source of the pollution and allows individuals to avoid it. Researchers from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands and the UK worked on the project which received some €1.8 million in EU funding. Applying ICT research to benefit Europe's citizens and businesses is a key element of the Digital Agenda for Europe adopted by the Commission in May 2010 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).
Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda, said "The INTAMAP project is a good example of how research can help to improve everyday life in Europe. Real time pollution maps can be a crucially important tool for public authorities to identify the sources of pollution and how best to tackle it. It can also help individuals to avoid pollution such as smog."
Until now, if there was an oil spill in European waters, measurements could show the exact area affected by the pollution but it was often not clear how much pollution was involved or where it was coming from. Without this information, it was difficult for public authorities to act quickly to tackle the pollution effectively.
For example, decisions such as when to undertake an emergency evacuation have been based on information gathered from a relatively small number of monitoring stations which only cover a small number of pollution points due to the cost. Without information about pollution levels between stations, decision-makers do not have a full picture of the extent of the pollution problem.
Researchers in the INTAMAP project developed software which uses measurements taken at specific places to create an online contour map, to show the concentration of pollutants updated in real time. Using so-called "interpolation" methods, this map shows what is happening between the measurement points and therefore gives a more accurate picture. Since this can sometimes require a lengthy data processing period, the INTAMAP software looks at the time available to determine whether it should use the most accurate interpolation techniques to produce a highly detailed map, or if a quicker, less sophisticated, assessment is needed, to calculate an approximate view.
The open-source interpolation software at the core of the project links to the outside world through web services. For instance, the system accepts raw data published on the web using open standards developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). Once the data has been processed, web services that also conform to OGC standards can create maps automatically, display them on the web and update them as needed.
Levels of particles from urban and industrial air pollution, for instance, can vary between short distance locations, so someone who cycles to work could rely on INTAMAP to calculate their average exposure to pollutants and compare different routes. The German radiation protection authority (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz) is now using the INTAMAP system to visualise hourly readings of gamma-type nuclear radiation provided by the European Radiological Data Exchange Platform (EURDEP).
INTAMAP was funded under the EU’s Sixth Framework Programme for research. Nine research centres from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, The Netherlands and UK developed the INTAMAP tool over a three year period.
INTAMAP website: http://www.intamap.org/index.php