Tag Archives: Sustainability

The movement to power Puerto Rico with the sun

On September 16, 2017, Hurricane Maria, the worst natural disaster on record to affect Puerto Rico, left people without homes or electricity. Eight months later, over 1,000 households were still without power. So communities across the island set out to find creative ways to generate electricity.

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After the disaster, the government of Puerto Rico committed to ambitious plans to transform its hurricane-battered electric grid to rely entirely on renewable energy by 2050. Project Sunroof maps the solar potential for buildings, in an effort to support the world’s transition to a renewable energy future. After the hurricane, we worked quickly to integrate Project Sunroof data covering Puerto Rico with Sunrun, a residential solar, storage and energy services company. Sunrun streamlined designs and installations across local installers to offer solar-as-a-service and home battery solutions to households, local fire stations and small businesses in Puerto Rico. For example, Maximo Solar, one of the leading solar installers on the west side of the island, used Project Sunroof data to support over 100 installations.


Of the 44,000 Puerto Rico rooftops that were surveyed by Project Sunroof, 90% of them were viable for solar—showing the longer term opportunity for island residents to harness renewable energy from the sun. By identifying the best locations to install solar panels, Project Sunroof data puts actionable insights in the hands of communities working towards energy independence, enables critical cost savings and reduces some of the complexities in the installation process.

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Responding to any crisis of the magnitude of Hurricane Maria is a complex endeavor, but Puerto Rico is a powerful example of how communities can respond rapidly to deploy solutions that improve and protect the livelihood of people. When put in the hands of local installers, solar information for Puerto Rico helped meet the urgent short term need for electricity and the movement towards a long term renewable energy future. Our work on Project Sunroof demonstrates one of Google’s many ongoing efforts to continue investing for the benefit of Puerto Rican residents and economic recovery efforts on the island.

AI can accelerate the shift to a more sustainable future

Today’s industrial economy is hugely wasteful. In 2018, the global demand for resources was 1.7 times more than what the Earth can support in one year. As population size and consumption continues to grow, we need to make an unprecedented, economy-wide shift or the effect on the planet will be irreversible.

Instead of our current “take-make-waste” economy, we need to shift to a system where waste is dramatically reduced and growth is decoupled from the consumption of finite resources—a circular economy. This is much like what we see in nature: A tree grows from the energy of the sun and the nutrients in the soil, once it dies it turns into soil to fuel the growth of new life. In this model, everything from cars and refrigerators to packaging and clothing would be repurposed and reborn for use again.

However, upheaving our industrial economy built over centuries requires new approaches and technological might. According to research we published this week with Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey & Company, AI can not only accelerate the shift to a more sustainable future, but also generate new value.

Already, AI is helping businesses quickly make sense of data and make complex decisions. Looking specifically at two industries—food and consumer electronics—the value of AI starts to become more clear.

  • Designing products that last.We need to rethink the way we design products so they maintain their value over longer periods of time or so they can be reused. Already, AI has enabled the discovery and production of new materials that help do this. The Accelerated Metallurgy project—run by the European Space Agency together with a group of leading manufacturers, universities and designers—used AI technology quickly and efficiently to produce and test new metal alloys which can substitute harmful chemicals and less durable materials.
  • Optimizing infrastructure. After we build products, instead of just consuming and disposing of them, we can create better infrastructure that allows us to use the products over and over again. For example, electronic devices, home appliances and vehicles could be leased and returned for resale or remanufactured so almost no new raw materials would need to be mined. This requires efficient reusing, repairing, remanufacturing and recycling of products. This is where AI can help out by improving the processes to sort recycled materials and disassemble products. 
  • Maximizing new business models.Similarly, business models need to shift to prioritize the elimination of waste. This means an emphasis on subscription services or leasing rather than owning products. AI can help increase the value of these business models by combining real-time and historical data to help us make better decisions about pricing and demand prediction, predictive maintenance and smart inventory management. Stuffstr, a company that buys used products from consumers to sell in second-hand markets shows how AI can optimize opportunities to eliminate waste. With an AI algorithm the company is able to quickly set competitive prices for the seller, while offering Stuffstr a good margin on the second-hand market.

A truly circular economy will be one that all of us are a part of which is why, in addition to continuing to look for ways to apply AI to our products and operations at Google, we’re hosting a contest called Circular Economy 2030. The contest invites social entrepreneurs from around the world to submit proposals for revenue-generating ideas that use data analytics and machine learning to advance a circular economy.

Addressing these complex global challenges requires new skills and capabilities in design, business, systems thinking and data science. Together, we can reverse the global challenges created by a take-make-waste economy and create a circular world of abundance.

Let the sunshine in: opening the market for more renewable energy in Asia

Since 2010, we’ve signed on to more than 30 solar and wind projects across the Americas and Europe, making us the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. Today we’re adding a fourth continent to our clean energy portfolio: Asia.

We’ve signed a long-term agreement to purchase the output of a 10-megawatt solar array (which is part of a larger solar farm) in Tainan City, Taiwan. This deal is a result of collaboration between Google, industry stakeholders and the Taiwanese government—which recently amended Taiwan’s Electricity Act to allow non-utility companies to directly buy renewable energy and decrease their carbon footprints. We’re the first corporate power purchaser to act on this renewables-friendly change to the law.

Standing 40,000 solar panels strong, our project in Taiwan will be located 100 kilometers south of our Changhua County data center and connected to the same regional power grid. As the Taiwanese government pursues further measures to remove market barriers and reduce renewable energy costs, we’re hopeful that more companies will purchase renewable energy, driving even larger projects across Taiwan.

Google’s effort to add more renewable energy in Taiwan builds on our longstanding collaboration with governments and utilities worldwide to make clean power more accessible. As far back as 2013, we’ve worked hand-in-hand with our North Carolina electricity provider, Duke Energy, to develop a program that enables companies to source power from local solar farms. Similarly, last year we finalized an arrangement with the state of Georgia that allows corporations to buy renewable energy directly through the state’s largest electric utility.

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Gary Demasi, Senior Director of Data Center Energy and Location Strategy, gives President Tsai Ing-Wen a tour of our Taiwan data center.

For Google, the solar purchase agreement provides a long-term and fixed electricity price to support our operations in Taiwan; it will also boost the carbon-free profile of our local data center. In addition, it’s a step in the right direction for grid reliability and Taiwan’s broader energy supply mix, which the government wants to expand and make more renewable in the coming years.

Thanks to our development partners Diode Ventures, Taiyen Green Energy (臺鹽綠能),J&V Energy (雲豹能源) andNew Green Power (永鑫能源), the project will have a unique design and community impact: poles will be mounted into commercial fishing ponds (pictured below) to elevate solar panels several feet into the sky. This setup will maximize land-use efficiency (important in a densely populated region), respect local ecology (fish and solar panels can coexist peacefully), and generate local economic benefits (the fishing community will be compensated for hosting solar panels on its ponds).


The Taiwanese energy developer New Green Power (永鑫能源) will deploy 40,000 solar panels for Google across commercial fishing ponds, in a way that maximizes land-use efficiency and benefits local aquaculture workers.

Our inaugural renewable energy project in Asia is an encouraging example of what’s possible when forward-thinking government officials, local stakeholders and companies work together for a brighter future. A policy landscape offering a clear path to cost-effective renewable power procurement is essential as more people and more organizations look to access carbon-free energy. We applaud Taiwan for giving the green light to green energy initiatives like ours—the first of hopefully many more in the region.

Why we’re putting 1.6 million solar panels in Tennessee and Alabama

Hundreds of engineers, electricians and construction workers are building two new, energy-efficient Google data center campuses in the Southeastern U.S.—one in Tennessee and another in northern Alabama. And we’re not stopping there—we’re also putting more carbon-free energy on the electric grid that will power our servers in the region. In the coming years, Google will purchase the output of several new solar farms as part of a deal with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), totaling 413 megawatts of power from 1.6 million solar panels—that’s equivalent to the combined size of 65,000 home rooftop solar systems.


An aerial view of our Tennessee data center under construction (photo credit: Aerial Innovations).

Located in Hollywood, Alabama and Yum Yum, Tennessee, the two biggest solar farms will be able to produce around 150 megawatts each. These solar sites will be among the largest renewable energy projects in the Tennessee Valley region, and the largest solar farms ever to be built for Google. Thanks to the abundant solar power generated by these new farms, electricity consumed by our data centers in Tennessee and Alabama will be matched with 100 percent renewable energy from day one, helping us match our annual electricity consumption as we grow.

Deploying solar farms does more than provide a cost-effective way to procure clean power. It will also create economic benefits for Tennessee and northern Alabama. TVA’s developer partners—NextEra Energy Resources and Invenergy—will hire hundreds of workers in the region, make long-term lease payments to property owners, and generate millions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue for the broader community. To date, Google's more than 30 long-term contract commitments to purchase renewable energy have resulted in nearly $5 billion in investment worldwide.

Last year, we shared our long-term objective to source carbon-free electricity around the clock for each of our data centers. These new solar projects will bring us substantially closer to that goal in the Southeastern U.S. In the carbon heat map below, you can see how well our operations in the region will be matched with carbon-free energy on an hour-by-hour basis, compared to a scenario without the solar projects. The green ribbon that appears in the heat map illustrates how the solar farms will make the majority of our daytime electricity use carbon-free.

carbon heat map solar

Thanks to the deployment of 1.6 million solar panels, approximately 72 percent of our data center electricity use in Alabama and Tennessee will be matched on an hourly basis with carbon-free sources—compared to a status-quo regional grid mix that is 48 percent carbon free. (This projection is based on 2017 TVA generation, power demand of a typical Google data center, and local solar resources.)

There’s still more to do to make our data centers fully carbon free around the world, and we have a number of ideas on how to get there. We’re one step closer thanks to the solar stardom of Hollywood, Alabama and the carbon-free flavors of Yum Yum, Tennessee.

The journey toward a circular economy: From Muir Beach to data centers

Editor’s note: This article is a condensed version of Kate’s talk at TEDWomen on November 29, 2018.

I grew up in Muir Beach, California and spent my childhood exploring its beautiful trails through the forest and tide pools at the beach. During my time in this coastal ecosystem, I learned something: The animals, plants and microbes that make up what we call nature are the consummate engineers of the world.

They represent billions of years of research and development that has created a circular system where waste doesn’t exist. Think of a tree that grows from the energy of the sun and the nutrients in the soil. Eventually the tree falls and microorganisms, enzymes and bacteria begin to turn the tree back into the soil and nutrients that fuel the growth of new life in the forest. This is the genius of nature, the original circular economy.

Kate Brandt

The ‘economy’ in circular economy

What if we could apply this same approach to our modern economy? What if, like nature, everything was repurposed, reused and reborn for use again? What if instead of our current linear economy of take-make-waste we had a “circular economy” that mimicked this natural system?

These questions aren’t just hypotheticals, they hold the key to our future. According to the latest science, we only have 12 years left to make an unprecedented, economy-wide shift or the damage we will have done to our planet will be irreversible. From my time working in sustainability at the Pentagon, the White House and now as Sustainability Officer at Google, my colleagues and I have struggled to find an approach that could drive transformation at this scale.

I believe the shift will incorporate circularity. This thinking builds on multiple schools of thought like cradle-to-cradle, industrial symbiosis and biomimicry, but what’s new is the “economy” in circular economy, the strong focus on value creation. It’s estimated that the Circular Economy could generate $4.5 trillion of new economic output by 2030.

We’re already putting this circular approach  into practice at Google, and it’s grounded in three principles: design out waste, keep products and materials in use and transition to renewable energy.  

Learning fromthe world’s most efficient engineernature

Google owns and operates 14 data centers on four continents. These data centers and the people who work in them are the ecosystem that make Google tick. And it’s not just Google, it’s Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Baidu and more. Cloud and IT services are not immaterial, they are a growing part of our modern world embodied in millions of data centers. Like all industrial systems, millions of data centers means a significant need for natural resources and an urgency to find a new model for addressing growing demand for energy and materials.

Stepping into a data center feels like the polar opposite of the dirt, decay, and life of the organic world. But it’s still a system—with inputs and outputs, much like the coastal forest of my childhood.

The most significant input to this system is energy. In 2017 Google’s total energy footprint was around 8 million megawatt hours; that’s roughly equivalent to the energy used by the city of Atlanta in one year. And that’s just Google. Data centers worldwide use an estimated 200 terawatt hours each year. That is similar to the national energy consumption of some countries like Australia and roughly one percent of global electricity demand.The other major input into the system is hardware, mostly in the form of thousands of servers ultimately made up of raw materials like tin, gold and cobalt.

So how does the circular genius of nature translate into a high-tech, industrial setting like a Google data center?

  • Designing out energy waste:At Google’s data centers, machine learning is used to optimize the controls of the cooling system. The team took sensors data on temperatures, power, pump speeds and used it to create an AI-powered efficiency recommendation system. To date, this has produced a 30 percent reduction in energy use in the cooling system.
  • Transition to renewable energy:Even with these efficiency measures, we still use a lot of energy. So we committed to matching 100 percent of our energy use with renewable purchases. In 2017, we purchased power from more than three gigawatts of wind and solar projects, more than the amount of energy it takes to power the city of San Francisco for a year.
  • Keep products and materials in use:A circular data center ecosystem also requires keeping products and materials in use, we need to design everything for longevity, repairability and disassembly for future use. Today, we use components from old servers to upgrade machines and we build remanufactured machines with refurbished parts. Last year, Google sold more than 2.1 million units that we no longer had use for.

Google certainly isn’t the only company on the journey towards a circular economy. But the work of a few companies isn’t enough. There is a lot more left to do. Last week Google joined world leaders in Katowice, Poland for the 24th consecutive Conference of the Parties (COP24). Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges of our time. Rising to that challenge involves a complex mix of policy, technology, and international cooperation. We believe global businesses like Google should lead the way in improving people’s lives, while reducing or even eliminating our dependence on raw materials and fossil fuels.

Together, I believe we can turn to the work of world’s most efficient engineers and reverse the global challenges created by a take-make-waste economy and create a circular world of abundance.

A tale of a whale song

Like us, whales sing. But unlike us, their songs can travel hundreds of miles underwater. Those songs potentially help them find a partner, communicate and migrate around the world. But what if we could use these songs and machine learning to better protect them?

Despite decades of being protected against whaling, 15 species of whales are still listed under the Endangered Species Act. Even species that are successfully recovering—such as humpback whales—suffer from threats like entanglement in fishing gear and collisions with vessels, which are among the leading causes of non-natural deaths for whales.

To better protect those animals, the first step is to know where they are and when, so that we can mitigate the risks they face—whether that's putting the right marine protected areas in place or giving warnings to vessels. Since most whales and dolphins spend very little time at the surface of the water, visually finding and counting them is very difficult. This is why NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, responsible for monitoring populations of whales and other marine mammals in U.S. Pacific waters, relies instead on listening using underwater audio recorders.

NOAA has been using High-frequency Acoustic Recording Packages (HARPs) to record underwater audio at 12 different sites in the Pacific Ocean, some starting as early as 2005. They have accumulated over 170,000 hours of underwater audio recordings. It would take over 19 years for someone to listen to all of it, working 24 hours a day!


Crew members deploy a high-frequency acoustic recording package (HARP) to detect cetacean sounds underwater (Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries).

To help tackle this problem, we teamed up with NOAA to train a deep neural network that automatically identifies which whale species are calling in these very long underwater recordings, starting with humpback whales. The effort fits into our AI for Social Good program, applying the latest in machine learning to the world’s biggest social, humanitarian and environmental challenges.

The problem of picking out humpback whale songs underwater is particularly difficult to solve for several reasons. Underwater noise conditions can vary: for example, the presence of rain or boat noises can confuse a machine learning model. The distance between a recorder and the whales can cause the calls to be very faint. Finally, humpback whale calls are particularly difficult to classify because they are not stereotyped like blue or fin whale calls—instead, humpbacks produce complex songs and a variety of vocalizations that change over time.


A spectrogram (visual representation of the sound) of a humpback whale song in Hawaii.

We decided to leverage Google’s existing work on large-scale sound classification and train a humpback whale classifier on NOAA’s partially annotated underwater data set. We started by turning the underwater audio data into a visual representation of the sound called a spectrogram, and then showed our algorithm many example spectrograms that were labeled with the correct species name. The more examples we can show it, the better our algorithm gets at automatically identifying those sounds. For a deeper dive (ahem) into the techniques we used, check out our Google AI blog post.

Now that we can find and identify humpback whales in recordings, it allows us to understand where they are and where they are going—as shown by the animation below.


Since 2005, NOAA’s Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center has deployed, recovered and collected recordings from hydrophones moored on the ocean bottom at 12 sites. On this map, you can see the spots where more whales were found by our classifier in orange and yellow.

In the future, we plan to use our classifier to help NOAA better understand humpback whales by identifying changes in breeding location or migration paths, changes in relative abundance (which can be related to human activity), changes in song over the years and differences in song between populations. This could also help directly protect whales by advising vessels to modify their routes when a lot of whales are present in a certain area. Such work is already being done for right whales, which are easier to monitor because of their relatively simple sounds.

The ocean is big and humpback whales are not the only ones to make noise, so we also started training our classifier on more species sounds (like the southern resident killer whale, which is critically endangered). We can’t see the species that live underwater, but we can hear a lot of them. With the help of machine learning, we hope that one day we can detect and classify a lot of these species sounds, giving biologists around the world the information needed to better understand and protect them.


A humpback whale breaching at the surface of the water. (Photo credit: Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.)

Reimagining the Google supply chain

Ever wonder how something like the Google Pixel starts out as a design and ends up in the palm of your hand?

To make products, like the Google Pixel, and all the technology that powers them—like Search, Gmail and YouTube—we rely on our supply chain. As we create more products and services for you, we also expand the reach of our supply chain to include new places, people and materials. Today, this includes more than 500 suppliers around the world who support our operations and manufacture hardware for devices and data centers.

As we work to continuously improve the way we design, source, produce, deliver, repair, and recover products, we wanted to share our commitment to create value along the entire supply chain. In our Responsible Supply Chain report, you’ll learn how we are working with individuals, communities and environments to do so. The report highlights our commitments and the progress we’ve made in areas like worker well-being, environmental impact and conflict minerals.

See the supply chain in action with immersive VR

If you want to learn more about where materials and products come from and the people and places that help create the devices we use in our daily lives, take a look at two new virtual reality project.  

In our Made by Me VR experience, you’ll see what it’s like to walk in a worker’s shoes for the day at a Flex supplier factory in Zhuhai, China. With a smartphone and Daydream View, Cardboard, or another VR headset, you’ll be immersed in a 360-degree environment of the factory where you can view the factory floor and scan the faces of workers during an impromptu break-time corner.  

Next up, in the Journey Of Gold, we will take you to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to see how the Nyamurhale mine—which once sold illegally mined, taxed and smuggled gold—has now implemented systems to aid conflict-free gold sourcing.

Similar to these two stories, we envision a supply chain that equally values people's lives, the environment, and local communities. Through transparency and collaboration, our goal is to unlock new possibilities and advance the technology industry toward a more sustainable future. Learn more at sustainability.google/responsible-supply-chain/.

The Internet is 24×7. Carbon-free energy should be too.

Electricity is the fuel that allows our data centers to deliver billions of Google searches, YouTube views, and much more—every single day, around the clock. Our commitment to carbon-free energy should be around the clock too.

Today we published an inside look at the sources of Google's electricity around the globe, to gauge how we're tracking toward our long-term aspiration of sourcing carbon-free energy on a truly 24x7 basis. Our new discussion paper highlights how some of our data centers—like the one in Hamina, Finland—are already performing remarkably well on this front. The paper shares location-specific “Carbon Heat Maps” to visualize how well a data center is matched with carbon-free energy on an hour-by-hour basis. For Hamina, a heat map shows that 97 percent of the facility’s electricity use last year was matched with carbon-free sources.


Last year, 97 percent of our Finland data center’s electricity use was matched on an hourly basis with carbon-free sources.

The predominance of carbon-free energy at our Finland data center is partly due to Google’s purchases of wind energy in the Nordic region. Indeed, our large-scale procurement of wind and solar power worldwide is a cornerstone of our sustainability efforts, and has made Google the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. Last year we matched 100 percent of our annual electricity consumption with renewable energy purchases, and will continue to do so as we grow.

In many cases, we’ve partnered with local utilities and governments to increase the supply of renewable energy in the regions where we operate. For example, near our data center in Lenoir, NC, we worked with our local electricity supplier to establish one of the first utility solar purchase programs in the U.S. Solar alone, however, is unable to provide electricity around the clock. When the sun is shining, our Lenoir data center is quite carbon-free (indicated by the midday green ribbon in the Carbon Heat Map below), but at nighttime it’s more carbon-intensive; we plan to tackle this issue in the coming years by procuring additional types of carbon-free energy.


Last year, 67 percent of our North Carolina data center’s electricity use was matched on an hourly basis with carbon-free sources.

The Carbon Heat Maps demonstrate that there are times and places where our electricity profile is not yet fully carbon-free. They suggest that our 100 percent renewable energy purchasing goal—which relies on buying surplus renewable energy when it’s sunny and windy, to offset the lack of renewable energy supply in other situations—is an important first step toward achieving a fully carbon-free future. Ultimately, we aspire to source carbon-free energy for our operations in all places, at all times.

Creating a carbon-free future will be no easy feat, but the urgency of climate change demands bold solutions. Our discussion paper identifies several key actions that we and the rest of the world must take—including doubling down on renewable energy purchases in a greater number of regions—to achieve 24x7 carbon-free energy. We have our work cut out for us and couldn’t be more excited to push forward.

A breath of fresh air: Measuring air quality in Copenhagen

Healthy cities are important to everyone. And from a mother of an asthmatic child looking for the best way to get to the playground, to bike commuters and outdoor athletes finding the healthiest route for their trip, to city planners working to reduce unhealthy emissions, air quality information is crucial to making decisions in our daily lives. More detailed air quality insights are the goal of Project Air View, which kicked off today in Copenhagen, Denmark, in a partnership between the City of Copenhagen and Google.

Denmark’s National Center for Environment and Energy has estimated that around 550 Copenhageners die prematurely every year from pollution, and an even larger number suffer from related diseases; the yearly societal cost is estimated around 600 million euros.

Project Air View can help Copenhagen tackle this problem. It uses Google Street View vehicles equipped with scientific instruments that measure air quality at the street level. This creates a dataset which can map hyperlocal, block-by-block emissions and particle pollution. These measurements will be shared with scientists, the City Council, and ultimately, the public via interactive maps, all in an effort to tackle this well-known—and harmful—problem in big cities.

Today, Copenhagen has three stationary measuring points for air quality. We hope to complement the measurements from these fixed locations with our mobile Street View cars, enabling the City to measure air pollution in the City in significantly more detail. The air quality sensors measure nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and ultrafine particulate matter.

We’ve enlisted the help of scientists from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands to equip the car with the air quality equipment. They will also play an integral part in data validation and analysis. Aarhus University in Denmark will also contribute.

air view copenhagen

Equipping Street View cars with sensors to measure air quality

This is the next phase of our efforts to map air quality, after first mapping the City of Oakland and other California cities since 2015. We’ve also mapped high-resolution air quality data in London, and recently announced that we’re expanding to more places around the globe.

Project Air View is an example of how we can extend Google’s mission to air quality information, helping to reduce pollution and meaningfully impact people’s quality of life. And it’s one of several efforts aimed at applying technology to the world’s most pressing problems. We’re thrilled that Copenhagen is one of the first cities in Europe with a Street View car on the road measuring air quality. It speaks to Copenhagen’s forward-thinking approach to climate and environment, and we’re happy to contribute to that effort.

Air View is ready to expand to more places around the globe

Clean air is critical to life on Earth, yet over90 percent of the world’s population breathes polluted air. Over the past few years, we’ve been using a handful of Street View vehicles to gather air quality measurements, which can produce insights at the neighborhood level and can help cities become smarter and healthier.

Along with Aclima, we've been testing air quality equipment with the goal of fine-tuning their mobile-friendly air sensors to a point where they deliver accuracy comparable to laboratory-grade instruments.  After years of effort we’ve now achieved this goal. Today, we’re announcing that we will expand our air quality mapping to more Street View cars in more places around the globe. The locations are to be determined, but we have 50 air quality sensor-equipped Street View cars ready to hit the road.

During our initial research phase, Google and Aclima tested air quality equipment on a few Street View cars. Each car was installed with two sets of instruments: the first set contained laboratory-grade air quality reference instruments that are typically used for government air quality monitoring. This equipment is expensive and big, so it’s hard to deploy on a large number of vehicles. The second set had Aclima’s smaller, more mobile-friendly, air sensors that enable us to deploy in higher numbers. With both sets of equipment side-by-side, we've been able to validate their performance, and we’re now confident that the smaller Aclima sensors are ready to be deployed in 50 Street View cars.

Air View 1

Aclima’s sensor node in a Street View car.

This expansion builds upon work we’ve done in California over the past year. Our partners at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), University of Texas-Austin, and Aclima published a study showing that our mobile measurements can produce a map of air quality changing block by block. Scientists with Kaiser Permanente and EDF used the data to show a link between street-level air pollution and heart disease among the elderly. We began sharing the validated scientific air quality measurements with researchers, and will continue to make all of the street-level air quality data captured to date accessible with over 250 million measurements over four years and more to come with this expansion. Scientists and researchers are invited to request access to this data for air quality studies here.

Air View 2

Left: Black carbon particles come from burning fuel, especially diesel, wood and coal. Air quality data from Google and Aclima; analysis by Apte et al/EDF. Right: Air quality measurements in the San Francisco Bay Area region. Air quality data from Google and Aclima.

The measurements captured by these specially-equipped Street View cars around the world will show a snapshot of air quality at a moment in time, and can be used by scientists to combine with other data to develop air quality models. With this data, cities will be able to make more informed decisions and accelerate effort in their transition to a healthier city.

Source: Google LatLong