Company: Weather Underground, IBM
Roles: UX/UI Design Lead, Map Designer
Project Type: Collaborative
Live: Weather Underground Air Quality & Health

Weather Underground has always been a forerunner in bringing data from individuals personal devices to the general public through our Personal Weather Station Network, this created hyper-local forecasts and weather conditions for neighborhoods. At Weather Underground I was given the task to use what we’re good at and start bringing the important data of Air Quality to our customers on a hyper-local area.

Air Quality forecasts are available through AirNow, which is a government run program through the EPA. These sensors are incredibly important to help government know when to warn it’s citizens of dangerous events. However these sensors are expensive and are far between because they depend on government funding. With the current political environment, Weather Underground partnered with PurpleAir to create a supplemental air quality network.
For testing I partnered with the Vallejo Clean Air group in Vallejo, CA in Solano County. This is a grassroots organization of citizens who have voiced concern about the industrial factories to the west of the city and how it affects the citizens. Solano Country has a diagnosed asthma rate of 25% which is the highest in California. Through testing and interviews with the group we focused on how this city could be an example of our Air Quality program throughout the United States.

In addition to the partnership with Vallejo Clean Air, I also conducted many interviews with a range of individuals to see what their concern with air quality. I interviewed a General Practitioner with elderly patients, an individual with a lung transplant after suffering from Cystic Fibrosis, a young person with asthma, a parent, as well as people on the street in San Francisco.

We found that many individuals were interested in learning more about air quality, but didn’t understand how it could affect them. We found in additional to worry about smog, that forest fire smoke was a very great concern that affected many groups of individuals.

Most of my time focused on mapping Air Quality (AQ) stations as well as how other countries categorize their air quality.
We began with designing a responsive page that would be accessed through the city forecast page. As well as creating more connections throughout the site. As part of the design we had to add a lot of education around the data and it’s importance. Many people during testing didn’t understand what good or moderate meant, so having quick glance illustration and color systems helps users quickly gauge meanings, as well as designing a deeper dive of information for the user.

I decided to create a interactive map to show how many AQ stations there are in the US along with the current AQ reading. This is to show the public how sparse the monitors are and how many times there is only one per county, which leaves many people without reliable data. We wanted to encourage more people becoming citizen scientists and supplementing the AirNow data, if there is more stations reporting than the public will be able to get more legislation to pass that will protect the atmosphere and their lungs.

Release and Learning
Release and Learning: The use of the Air Quality page grew quickly within the first release, which pushed for and all the Weather apps to add this network and feature to their platforms. The partnership with PurpleAir led to an increase of 3000+ small AQ PM2.5 and PM10 sensors to supplement the then AirNow’s 1500PM stations and the network continues to grow.
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