Ahhhh the Olympics. Full of competition, triumph, glory, pure athleticism, and, for the hosting city, headaches. London is getting ready to deal with a huge influx of people to watch, compete and assist with the 2012 summer Olympics. They expect over 11 million visitors over those seven weeks. That means lots and lots of people with lots and lots of cars.
To keep an eye on the sure-to-be crazy traffic, and the accompanying smog, smoke and gunk that is sure to come with them, London is turning to technology. They're installing a technology called CityScan - machines that scan the skies to take readings of air quality. The sensors will be up on tall buildings - one in North Kensington and one in Chelsea - and will use sensors that pick up the way the sunlight scatters to determine the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air. Nitrogen dioxide is a common byproduct of traffic emissions, and can cause lung problems and diseases like bronchitis and asthma.
The coolest think about these CityScan machines is that they can map pollution in 3D, to show where it's coming from and where the nitrogen dioxide spreads. The pictures look kind of like weather maps (you can see one here at their website) with the most dense nitrogen dioxide in red. The machines can take a full 360 degree scan in fifteen minutes with one inch resolution.
The idea is that if they know where the most pollution is, they can warn people who are at risk to stay away, or provide more medical support in high pollution areas. While there's not much they can do to reduce the amount of muck that 11 million people make, they can at least warn people where that muck is the muckiest.