iPhone app helps fight foul smells in cities

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Smell MyCity
Don't just hold your nose. The Smell MyCity app could help clear the air.
Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Smartphone apps are powerful tools — especially one that eliminates foul smells in your city.

OK, the Smell MyCity app is not that powerful. But it does give users a reliable way to report offensive stank. And in some cases, their complaints go directly to air-quality authorities.

The app, a free download for iPhone or Android devices, works in any city, using GPS to record the smelly location. The app then asks you to rate the smell from 1 to 5, with 5 being “about as bad as it gets!”

Smell MyCity encourages citizens to provide as many details about the odor as possible, including whether it’s causing negative physical effects like eye irritation. The app also shows a map and marks indicating other reported bad smells in the area.

The Smell MyCity app comes from the Create Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can trace Smell MyCity’s origins back to 2017 and an app called Smell Pittsburgh.

“Smell is one case where our human senses are powerful to picking up what’s in the air,” project director Beatrice Dias told Fast Company. “(Scents) like sulfur don’t just smell like rotten eggs; they can be detrimental to our health. It’s important for us to pay attention to what our body is telling us. The app tries to highlight those experiences.”

Some bad smell reports went from the app to a regulatory agency, Dias said. The app is mostly used as a way to track data and create spreadsheets. Neighborhoods, in turn, can use that data to bring suspicious smells to the attention of local government.

Dias said the app already clocked 4,500 downloads. Smell MyCity’s users generated 20,000 reports that have been emailed to pollution authorities.

Source: Fast Company