On December 6th-8th 2023, in collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS), we organized the world’s largest Air Quality Hackathon to tackle one of the world’s most pressing health and environmental challenges, air pollution.

Participants used their creativity and tech skills to build cloud solutions that support local organizations and communities with access to clean air. Discover the teams that won the Hackathon and the challenges they worked to solve.

About the Air Quality Hackathon

The Air Quality Hackathon, a three-day, global, and virtual event, was aimed at finding innovative technical solutions to solve the most pressing air pollution challenges. Air pollution is one of the most pressing health and environmental issues linked to 6.7 million premature deaths worldwide yearly (WHO). It most acutely affects populations in South, South-East Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

We worked together with the world’s leading nonprofits and experts tackling air pollution to identify the key blockers they face. Hackathon participants then built technical prototypes to address those blockers and clean up the air for the betterment of the affected communities.

AI, Cloud, and ML at the forefront of the battle against air pollution

More than 170 tech teams from 27 countries and 5 continents, with the help of over 50 technical mentors, used the latest cloud, ML and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies to build 33 solutions. The three winning solutions bridge the data, forecasting, monitoring, and information gaps with the ultimate goal of cleaning up the air.

The “Great Clean-up” calls for technical solutions

The Air Quality Hackathon, a three-day, global, and virtual event, was aimed at finding innovative technical solutions to solve the most pressing air pollution challenges. Tech To The Rescue worked together with the world’s leading non-profits and experts tackling air pollution to surface the key blockers they face. Hackathon participants then built technical prototypes to address those blockers and clean up the air for the betterment of the affected communities.

Technical needs of the organizations fighting air pollution

The hackathon was accompanied by the launch of a technical needs report and research, “Fighting Air Pollution with Technological Innovations (Report 2023)” conducted by Tech To The Rescue. The report’s findings include insights from interviews with leading non-profit organizations in the mentioned regions. These leaders face many technological challenges preventing them from scaling their proven interventions. Challenges include: access to air quality data collection, designing new sensors measuring the levels of pollution, creating open-source air quality databases, and crowdsourcing data. Furthermore, building awareness among the citizens by developing user-friendly interfaces to display air quality data in an attractive and actionable manner is critical. Another crucial component of the puzzle is to support advocacy work by highlighting the impact of new policies on the environment, people, and the economy.

“At AWS, we recognize the disproportionate impacts of air pollution on vulnerable communities around the world, the people and places least responsible for the problem; and are committed to using cloud technology to help mitigate this. We believe working together is the key to unlocking technology’s full potential in this space. Improving air quality is a complex issue that requires collaboration to both build solutions and make impactful air quality data available. Seeing the innovative prototypes built during the hackathon gives me great hope for our ability to combat this issue.” Maggie Carter Director, Social Responsibility and Impact Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Air Quality Hackathon 2023 winners create scalable solutions

The 2023 Air Quality Global Hackathon was a call to action for the technical community to explore how cloud technology can point us toward solutions supporting the goal of cleaning the air. The hackathon judges and final jury identified seven finalists (1 per challenge area), and among them, three winners that maximize value and will scale, are simple to use for the local actors, are broadly accessible, and demonstrate creativity and strong alignment with the non-profit organization’s mission. Here are the winners:

Team Brainhub

Łukasz Pluszczewski, Jan Zoń, Agnieszka Grabałowska, Piotr Waleń

The Challenge

Polish Smog Alert’s campaign, ‘See what you breathe. Change it,’ features seven two-meter-high human lung models touring 63 locations. These models mimic breathing, absorbing air pollutants onto their white surface. The tech teams were challenged to replicate this mobile lung experience digitally for a global audience

The Solution

The Brainhub team has prepared and implemented a website and a mobile application written in React.js with a very suggestive image of breathing lungs. Depending on the location we choose, and actual real-time data from OpenWeather API, the image will show us the damage to the lungs appropriate to the air quality. In future development, the website will be able to display historical data. On top of this, the team invented a mobile game using the Kaboom game engine in which the user can become a brave lung that fights air pollution. The level of difficulty depends on the level of pollution. The application is easy to deploy on AWS or any other container-enabled environment.

BlueRider.Software

Bartosz Kozłowski, Adam Czarkowski, Norbert Szorc, Rafał Kurzyna Sebastian Burzynski, Adrian Michalski

The Challenge

The Thailand Clean Air Network is actively working to bring about meaningful change in air quality legislation. One significant hurdle the organization faces is the lack of appeal in legal language, which often alienates a broader audience, especially the youth.

The Solution

The BlueRider.The software team prepared the AirVocacy, a digital platform that integrates live sensor data from over 1800 stations in more than 370 cities, providing real-time updates on air quality. Complementing this is a user-friendly chatbot powered by GPT 3.5 with an option to transition to GPT 4.0, which answers queries about air pollution and legislative measures. An AI meme generation tool utilizing DALL-E 3 to engage a younger audience creates shareable memes, simplifying complex legal and environmental concepts. Additionally, advanced legal language processing, employing Langchain & Qdrant, enhances the accessibility of legislative documents, ensuring precise answers in any language.

Camaraderie team, Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Venkat Viswanathan, Gabriel Verreault, Qiong (Jo) Zhang, Andrew Wallace, Satish Kathiriya

The Challenge

Afri-SET is working on a big project in West Africa to ensure affordable air quality sensors are used in places that usually get little attention. They want to create a smart database that can handle data from all kinds of sensors, no matter who makes them. Their goal is to make it easy for anyone with a sensor to join in and use their platform.

The Solution

The solution crafted by The Camaraderie, named “Bedrock Mining the Air for Data Nuggets,” introduces a novel approach to data processing. It utilizes a Language Model (LLM) prompt to generate Python codes automatically capable of handling raw data in various formats. This innovation significantly streamlines data engineering efforts, reducing the timeline from months to days. The system automatically generates code for each data format and seamlessly integrates with Amazon Bedrock, accessing cutting-edge LLMs via API. It incorporates human involvement to oversee data ingestion and LLM outputs for additional security measures. The solution also leverages AWS safety, security, and responsible AI features. Notably, it’s easy to scale by using AWS Glue, Amazon Athena, and Amazon S3 as a data lake platform, offering support for various analytics services and facilitating easy extension to a production-ready system.

Congratulations to the winners and all the builders of the prototypes put forth during the Air Quality Hackathon.

The winning solutions received financial support to finish and implement the prototypes.

If you would like to get involved and put your technical skills to work, we invite you to read Fighting Air Pollution with Technological Innovations (Report 2023), where non-profits fighting air pollution share their additional challenges to scale and start building for and with them.

Reach out to Tech To The Rescue directly if you have inquiries, feedback, or ideas to utilize the Air Quality Hackathon’s outcomes in supporting Access to Clean Air.

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