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AccuWeather acquires air pollution startup Plume Labs

·3 min read

Weather forecast company AccuWeather is acquiring French startup Plume Labs — terms of the deal are undisclosed. Originally founded in 2014, Plume Labs has gradually expanded its product offering to offer three different products focused on air pollution data.

First, the startup launched a mobile app for iOS and Android that gives you information about air quality. At first, it was a simple city-level air pollution forecasting app. The company would aggregate data from different sources to predict how pollution would evolve over time.

Over time, Plume Labs improved its forecasting abilities, as it can now predict air quality for the next few days. Plume Labs uses some machine learning models for its predictions. It now also offers detailed maps with street-by-street information. This way, if you’re commuting to work on a bike or a moped, you know that you should avoid a busy street in particular.

Plume Labs then wanted to empower its users by making air quality tracking visual and actionable. That’s why it designed its own air quality tracker that connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth Low Energy.

The second-generation device can track particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5 and PM10) as well as polluting gases (nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds). It's been relatively successful, as there are currently more Plume Labs devices being used than government-supported monitoring stations.

Finally, Plume Labs started offering air pollution data as an API. The company has aggregated thousands of environmental monitoring stations around the world and applied its machine learning model on this data. This way, Plume Labs customers get a head start if they want to integrate air quality data in their products. They don't have to deal with different data sources and unify these data sets into a single set. Similarly, they don't have to allocate resources on machine learning applied to air pollution.

In January 2020, AccuWeather integrated Plume Labs’ data in its weather forecasting products. The weather forecasting company used that opportunity to acquire a stake in Plume Labs. And now, AccuWeather is going one step further and acquiring the rest of the company.

“Air quality plays an intrinsic role in AccuWeather’s mission of saving lives and helping people prosper, and this acquisition will help us provide users and customers with an even more personalized experience as well as a 360-degree understanding of the impact of weather on their wellness,” AccuWeather president Steven R. Smith said in a statement. “Our exclusive alliance delivered on the promise to help put our users in greater control of their health, and we are committed to that goal even more firmly with this new strategic direction.”

Plume Labs will become the center for climate and environmental data for AccuWeather. This acquisition proves that air pollution is becoming a key metric for many industries.

“Seven years ago, David Lissmyr and I launched Plume Labs to make air quality information accessible to everyone,” Plume Labs co-founder and CEO Romain Lacombe said in a statement. “Since then, our work has helped galvanize the fight for clean air by making the health impact of climate change personal. Joining forces with AccuWeather now is an extraordinary opportunity to amplify our impact at planetary scale and help 1.5 billion people avoid air pollution around the world.”

Up next, the Plume Labs team and technology will continue to operate and expand its work to other environmental risks, such as wildfires. Climate risk forecasting is still in its early days, but today’s acquisition confirms that it is going to become more important over time.