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China Earth Idle

Air Quality Apps and Bottled Air Thrive On Beijing's Pollution 102

Posted by samzenpus
from the one-man's-trash dept.
itwbennett writes "Here's a bright spot in Beijing's off-the-chart bad air pollution: The market for mobile apps that monitor air quality is thriving. 'When the pollution went beyond the air quality index, all the social networks in China and media began paying attention to the problem,' said Wang Jun, one of the developers of the China Air Pollution Index app. 'This caused the downloads to increase 30 times.'" Obviously a Spaceballs fan, a Chinese man is even selling fresh air in cans.
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Air Quality Apps and Bottled Air Thrive On Beijing's Pollution

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  • by dadelbunts (1727498) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @08:47PM (#42757269)
    She got a nose job tho so you cant really tell.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone see The Lorax? It sounds like the entrepreneur pulled the idea of selling air from the movie..

  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @09:01PM (#42757375)
    there are roofers. Rest assured grasshopper, where there is misery, someone is still reaping a bounty.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      roofers are fine, much of this stuff is like people selling a magic rock that will keep the next hurricane away.

      • by Greyfox (87712)
        My magic hurricane rock has been working great ever since I moved to Colorado!
    • Wherever there's a hurricane there are roofers.

      You call that a quote? This is a quote:

      Look at all these little things! So busy now! Notice how each one is useful. A lovely ballet ensues, so full of form and color. Now, think about all those people that created them. Technicians, engineers, hundreds of people, who will be able to feed their children tonight, so those children can grow up big and strong and have little teeny children of their own, and so on and so forth. Thus, adding to the great chain of life. You see, father, by causing a little destruction, I am in fact encouraging life.

  • Related projects (Score:3, Informative)

    by jago25_98 (566531) <jago25_98@hotmail. c o m> on Thursday January 31, 2013 @09:03PM (#42757397) Homepage Journal

    One way to measure quality - Sensordone, air quality and other sensors via bluetooth keyring thingy kickstarter project:
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/453951341/sensordrone-the-6th-sense-of-your-smartphoneand-be [kickstarter.com]

    Related: Air cleaning plants (previously from slashdot)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_air-filtering_plants [wikipedia.org] (testing: http://cur.lv/redirect.php?code=fwrm [cur.lv] )

  • Yanno (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @09:15PM (#42757457) Homepage Journal
    Here in ermer'ka, we don't have to chew the air because of the EPA. All the deregulation folks trying to close down the EPA should have to spend a month in Beijing, learning what it's like living without one. Just sayin'.
    • Re:Yanno (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @09:57PM (#42757707)
      Except for a lot of the reason why there's a lot of pollution in Beijing isn't because there's no EPA, but rather because of the property structure in China. In most countries, if you want to build X, you can build it wherever you can buy the land to build X. In China that isn't the case, all the land belongs to the government and all non-urban land is reserved for farming.

      Because of this, you've got China which has a lot of land and space for people (they're nowhere near the top of the list of population density) where everyone's crammed into cities like sardines if they want to work a non-agricultural job. And since the government owns the land, businesses can't move out of the cities. Because of this you've got a massive amount of smog because all the businesses are concentrated in such a small area.
      • Re:Yanno (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rich0 (548339) on Friday February 01, 2013 @12:15AM (#42758307) Homepage

        Maybe, but Japan looks exactly the same and they don't have the same legal structure. I think it is a culture thing.

        The lack of regulation issue is real. In the US the average person uses oil or gas to heat their home, and both are reasonably clean from an emissions standpoint (I'm guessing the fuels are regulated). In China most homes use this compressed coal dust stuff for fuel and it is sooty as all get out, likely inefficient, but also dirt cheap.

      • Re:Yanno (Score:5, Informative)

        by guises (2423402) on Friday February 01, 2013 @01:35AM (#42758547)
        China has plenty of small villages, that's where most of the population lives. That isn't the reason for the smog, it's the power plants. What you're implying is that cities are necessarily dirty and that's just not the case. Plenty of people in New York and the air is perfectly breathable. Shanghai recently spent a lot on setting up filtration for its coal-fire power plants and the air quality improved a fair amount. Still has a long way to go, but that's clearly where the problem is.
        • The power plants are not the reason for the smog. It is the millions of people burning coal in stoves for home heating. Why do you think this problem is occurring IN THE WINTER?
          • by ak3ldama (554026)
            And people never use more electricity during the winter?
          • by guises (2423402)
            People burning coal is ALSO a reason, I did neglect that, but coal for heating can't explain the air quality in Hong Kong, for example, which is subtropical.
      • Odd. It's pretty much the same in my country, just settling where you wanna simply isn't (you pretty much need a building permit for ... well, I'm not sure about your dog house, but...) but we have one of the cleanest cities. Seriously, when I went to L.A. I was surprised you can breathe that stuff they claim is "air".

        Trust me. It's pollution standards.

    • by guttentag (313541)

      Here in ermer'ka, we don't have to chew the air because of the EPA.

      No chewing required. For the most part we just swallow whatever industries put in the air because of what they put in [nytimes.com] politicians' [bloomberg.com] piggy [washingtonpost.com] banks [politico.com]. It goes down easier when you don't have to chew... which is probably why you didn't notice.

    • Re:Yanno (Score:5, Interesting)

      by moondawg14 (1058442) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:07PM (#42758055)
      As is very often the case with China, the issue is much more complex than that. China does have emissions regulations, but the selectively enforce them. Most Chinese companies don't have the technology to create compliant products(automobiles and trucks, in this case) Nor do consumers have the money to purchase compliant products. So, rather than spend $$$$ on developing compliant products, companies will spend $$ to get the right person to sign off on their non-compliant product. This has a double-benefit of making Chinese products MUCH cheaper than foreign products (most foreign companies will not make a non-compliant product) and putting more Chinese manufacturing workers to work.

      Here in China, we use 80/20 as a rule of thumb: 80% of the products in a given market will be "fake." In my case, we find that about 80% of the competitors in the engine markets are selling non-compliant engines. One example: One of our competitors was selling an aftertreatment "catalyst" at retail for less than our material cost. So, we bought one and cut it open. Iron. No platinum or other catalysts. Well, pretty hard to compete on price when the other guy doesn't have to follow the rules.

      After living here for a year, I can tell you that "Money is King" in China. Nearly every single person is constantly on the hunt for where they're going to get their next infusion of cash. Putting enough money in the right hands can get you nearly anything, ANYTHING that you want. Until that cycle is somehow broken, China is going to continue to run headlong into the future with little concern for the long-term well-being of its environment and citizens.

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        I can believe the whole 80% is fake thing - I don't think it is just China either - likely an Asian cultural thing or something.

        I was considering buying a dashboard camera and I can't really bring myself to do it. Most of the products don't even have make/model info - they're just imports and what you get when you open the box could be anything. The reviews reference things like chipsets because that is really the only identifying info - it is a bunch of tiny manufacturers all copying each other's designs

      • by Greyfox (87712)
        Well it's not just China, really, though being able to cut the air with a knife in Beijing is kind of an extreme example. I did a "Train-your-replacement" outsourcing gig with a company a decade or so ago and went to Romania a couple times as part of that. Timisoara, Romania reminded me a lot of Miami city without emissions controls. Inside buildings, everyone smoked. EVERYONE. Outside buildings, the car exhaust fumes were about equally as bad. By the end of a week there, my lungs hurt and I couldn't wait t
    • It's spelled "xmerica".

      In no way does the pollution in Beijing excuse the environmental extremists in the EPA. So, there are only two options, with no in between? Only the Sith deal in absolutes.

      • Yes, touchpads and clumsy typing make a good point look ridiculous because Slashdot still lacks an "edit" function.
        • Yes, well, the preview function more than adequately makes up for it. Editing posted comments is the last thing we need.

    • we don't have to chew the air because of the EPA

      If you dare, look at the air quality trendlines both before and after the EPA's creation. Societies go through stages of economic development.

    • Ironic how China is so heavily centralized and regulated and they are suffering from this problem. It seems like such high levels of regulation would provide them the opportunity to be one of the cleanest countries.

  • Suck. Suck. Suck.. SUCK
  • Is this above Top Quality Apps?
  • 'This caused the downloads to increase 30 times.'" Umm... so the app was downloaded 30 times total? Talking about bad wording there ....
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @10:00PM (#42757725) Journal

    Obviously, selling bottled air is a 'good idea' if you can get people to buy it; but what possible sense does that make as a strategy for coping with pollution?

    As a glance at the scuba gear aisle shows, the equipment needed to actually bottle useful amounts of air isn't trivial. You need a fairly sturdy(and thus heavy) tank to safely achieve pressures high enough to avoid ridiculous volume requirements, and then you need a regulator stage so the pressure doesn't blow your alveoli to hell.

    Unless the pollutants are some truly alarming stuff, rather than just soot and miscellaneous VOCs, you'll get a lot more mileage out of lighter and less bulky filters.

    • The Chinese are notorious for paying stupid amounts of money on the latest fads of industrial goods. Given they're walking into a new era of consumerism from post communism, this shouldn't surprise you. This phase will pass. Actually, it waxes and wanes throughout any industrialized society. But these past 10 years, the Chinese are most definitely waxing into uncharted levels.

      Now, if you have no morals or ethics, an American can makes "shit piles" of money (a large metric) by selling snake oil to China.

      • Speaking of making money by selling snake oil to China... An, um, friend wants to know if there is a ludicrous backstory that works as well on Chinese customers as the old "Oh, this is a traditional Chinese remedy, rebalances your Qi with the wisdom of the orient" one does on Americans...

        • No backstory. At least none that I know of. But what really sells a product is the packaging. In china, it's quite common to find more money spent on developing the packaging than the product itself. I've even read a few comments on car product packaging over at the Chinese version of Newegg (www.newegg.cn). While yes, product packaging is great form of marketing, rarely do I hear or read any comments of it here in the USA. It's strictly for impulse purchasing. But apparently to the Chinese, it's well worth

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            I know that Pharma companies spend a lot more money making their pills look shiny white for sale in Japan. Apparently whether it works isn't nearly as important as the aesthetics of the pills - just about everybody in Japan takes pills and they're quite fussy about how they look. I know somebody at a Pharma company that had to spend a bunch of money on color analysis equipment. In the US the quality test was basically that it looked white and didn't have obvious visual defects (chips, flecks, etc) - they

          • I generally think that the whole "presentation" thing is big in most far east countries. Maybe someone with more experience with far east culture could fill in, but what I learned about gifts and presents in Japan, you should spend some time pondering the packaging, don't just wrap it up in some kind of paper for the sake of wrapping it up.

        • by poity (465672)

          That'd be "USDA Approved" (since no one trusts domestic quality control). Check taobao.com with keyword USDA. So now there are tens of thousands of sellers claiming their cosmetics/vitamins/supplements/snacks/etc are USDA approved, but who knows if they're telling the truth...

    • Re:Idiotic... (Score:5, Informative)

      by mister_playboy (1474163) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @10:26PM (#42757851)

      Obviously, selling bottled air is a 'good idea' if you can get people to buy it; but what possible sense does that make as a strategy for coping with pollution?

      The canned fresh air is a bit of dark humor. The guy selling it is a wealthy philanthropist making a political statement.

      • Re:Idiotic... (Score:4, Informative)

        by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @10:43PM (#42757933)

        And with 'flavors' [stuff.co.nz] like "pristine Tibet" and "post-industrial Taiwan", perhaps slightly subversive humor as well.

      • by guttentag (313541)

        The canned fresh air is a bit of dark humor. The guy selling it is a wealthy philanthropist making a political statement.

        Exactly. According to the article, it comes in three flavors:

        • Pristine Tibet
        • Post-Industrial Taiwan
        • Revolutionary Yan'an (the Communist Party's early base era)

        The Party doesn't like dark humor. I give him about three weeks before he is coincidentally convicted of some sort of crime against the state.

    • by DarkOx (621550)

      The bottled air is a "joke" or "political statement" depending on who you ask. These are literally pop-top aluminum cans. Nothing like scuba gear; or anything actually designed to "cope" with pollution.

  • by dudpixel (1429789) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @10:03PM (#42757751)

    Time to pay a visit to the once-ler...

  • http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/01/chinas-toxic-sky/100449/ [theatlantic.com]

    The shot featuring the blue sky on the screen is my favorite...

  • by Glorat (414139) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @10:21PM (#42757825)

    My new bookmarked website is http://www.aqicn.info/ [aqicn.info] which recently popped up. It's very pretty and they built a little widget that goes on my android phone home screen. I'm grateful people have taken time to build this type of information as I've been paranoid about the pollution whilst living here. Only 2 years ago, pollution was a topic not even discussed by the locals and the best one had to go on was a twitter feed from the US consulate giving the PM2.5 levels.

    And the best thing is that people are building these sites and apps for free.

    • by ylsul (94641)

      Its surprising. I was in Beijing in the summer of 2008, and I thought the pollution was pretty bad then. I was so relieved (breathing-wise) when I left Beijing for Tokyo. You could immediately tell that the quality of the air was better.

  • NASA satellite photos show a thick grey haze has rendered the densely populated plains of North China invisible from outer space.

    Aha! So that was the plan all along.

  • Or do mosty of the images of Beijing, these days, look like they were lifted straight from Blade Runner?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 31, 2013 @11:03PM (#42758037)

    Before 'Green' became a marketing word, the original environmental action in the sixties was to clean up the air, the land and the water in the Western World. The pollution back then was obscene. Black smoke poured out of factories. Lake Erie was the synonym for 'really polluted.

    Burning Coal emits Mercury, Thorium and Sulfur. Mercury gets concentrated in the Fish. Sulfur falls out as acid rain.

    As to the Thorium, I spotted this in an web article, but could not find much out more about it and was not entirely satisfied that the information was 100 percent good. But here goes anyways. Coal contains Thorium and other radioactive materials that are released into the air when it is burnt. They do not purify coal before the burn it. Coal is a mixture of all sorts of stuff, most of flammable, but some of it other stuff. The scaremonger writing the piece claimed that coal plants spewed more radiactivity into the environment than a nuclear plant. Who knows for sure. I could not google enough up.

    They quietly shutdown all the coal plants around here. Almost like Shhh, don't say 'Thorium' or 'Class Action'. Sorta like they got rid of Leaded Gasoline, which according to the talk around the campfire is the reason for the long, slow, steady reduction in crime.

    As somewhat of a gearhead, there was always a lot of harangue about 'California' emission controls. I thought they were being overly anal. But looking at the air quality in Bejing is the universe telling me, Ahah! That what happens if you are not anal about everything that affects air quality.

    I hear about the Chinese Economic Miracle. But when I see the youtube videos of the 'Fog' in Bejing, the price they paid was too high. You could be the richest man in Bejing, but your quality of life, as a living creature, is horrible. This is not some abstract human rights issue. This is breathing filth into your lungs with every breath.

    And replace the coal plants with what? Nuclear? Oy. Brain Hurts.

    But still, the Chinese must start down the road to clean air and clean water with a single step. They have the world's worst problem and must become world leaders at solving this problem.

    The population is the largest in the world. The civilization is thousands of years old. They have cared for their environment all this time, and in turn, their environment has cared for them.

    There are almost tears on my keyboard. It is all so sad. I pray for the people of Beijing. I did not know the problem was so bad, but now I do. I write. I talk. I send about links. That is about all I can do.

    China, take those trillions of Worthless Fiat American Paper Dollars and buy your civilization clean air. The people of China are the most important asset of China. There is no election coming up. The planet is not going anywhere. There is no need for short term, quick buck expedient thinking.

    Oh. It is just so sad. I pray for Beijing.

    • And replace the coal plants with what? Nuclear? Oy. Brain Hurts.

      You do know that nuclear plants don't burn the fuel right? The only thing that goes into the air from a nuclear plant is steam (H2O, water).

    • by Firethorn (177587)

      As to the Thorium, I spotted this in an web article, but could not find much out more about it and was not entirely satisfied that the information was 100 percent good. But here goes anyways. Coal contains Thorium and other radioactive materials that are released into the air when it is burnt. They do not purify coal before the burn it. Coal is a mixture of all sorts of stuff, most of flammable, but some of it other stuff. The scaremonger writing the piece claimed that coal plants spewed more radiactivity into the environment than a nuclear plant. Who knows for sure. I could not google enough up.

      Factiods I remember:
      1. A coal plant releases more radioactive material than a nuclear plant produces
      2. There's more potential energy in the radioactive materials in coal than you can get from burning the coal itself

      Okay, here goes: Coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste [scientificamerican.com]. Uranium and Thorium content of coal [sciencemag.org]. CO2 production of a coal plant [c2es.org],
      500MW = 3 million tons of CO2/year. The carbon is 27% [lenntech.com] of that, and coal is 'almost' pure carbon. Call it 1.7M tons of coal consumed per year for a 1GW plant.

  • I almost sat through the 25 second commercial just to watch the the guy selling air cans. That is how interested I was. Was.
  • Hey, I used this app way before it was cool! Now, it's mainstream, and it's just lame now. Sucks! Nah, just kidding. I was surprised and delighted that there was a China air quality app, and installed it straightaway. There is even a handy widget that shows the current conditions. The guy really did a good job on the program.

    I just wonder where the data comes from, and how accurate it is. There are perverse incentives for officials to lie about such things. One of my favorite stories is how some c

  • They just might hack ./ in retaliation.
  • If you could make a real, working (read: smell generating) fart app then you would have a perfect pair. One app to generate air pollution and one to detect it.

  • Obviously a Spaceballs fan, a Chinese man is even selling fresh air in cans.

    Perri-Air. LOL

  • Behold your new O'Hare corporation Lords (Remember the Lorax?)

Wernher von Braun settled for a V-2 when he coulda had a V-8.

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