PlanetWatch and Algorand put air quality test results on a blockchain (Photo: Flickr)

Algorand puts air quality test results on a blockchain

The DeFi-focused blockchain firm is teaming up with PlanetWatch to create an immutable record of global air quality test results

Decentralized finance-focused blockchain firm Algorand has teamed up with French start-up PlanetWatch to put global air quality test results on a blockchain. 

A company spun off from the French physics lab CERN, PlanetWatch will use “internet of things” connected sensors to monitor and record air pollution data. 

PlanetWatch called current air-quality monitoring “inadequate due to no real-time data reporting” in a release. Noting that the World Bank has labeled air pollution the fourth largest health risk in the world, the company said its goal is to ensure that when air pollution rises to dangerous levels, timely warnings are immediately available on a mobile app to “endangered populations.”

In addition to using Algorand’s open-source, permissionless blockchain to quickly disseminate and permanently record pollution readings, PlanetWatch plans to use it to reward volunteers who maintain or even carry pollution sensors with them. Participants will receive Planet utility tokens for contributing data.

“The missing link in air quality monitoring is a high-density, low-cost sensor network, delivering real-time data,” said Claudio Parrinello, CEO of PlanetWatch, in the statement. “Historically, air pollution is monitored through large, expensive scientific instruments installed in a small number of locations, with data not being published in real-time.”

Energy efficiency counts

Parrinello added that Algorand’s energy-efficient blockchain protocol was a factor in choosing to partner with the firm. 

“Algorand’s protocol was built by the team to be energy conscious with minimal processing power needed to achieve consensus in its innovative pure proof-of-stake approach,” said W. Sean Ford, COO of Algorand. “The eco-friendliness of the Algorand network makes for a natural partnership with PlanetWatch to help global populations access transparent, reliable information about air quality in their locations.” 

Energy-intensive proof-of-work mining practices have given Bitcoin in particular a bad name, said Ford. A 2019 study by the University of Cambridge estimated that Bitcoin mining uses as much energy as Switzerland. (That reputation may be overblown, other studies suggest.)

But there’s always a silver lining. “This data has vast commercial and scientific value as air quality pollution will become more prevalent in the coming decades,” Parrinello said.

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.