Microsoft abandons project mapping Chicago’s air pollution

Read the full story at MuckRock. See also MuckRock’s story from November 2022 that reported on the data collected during the project to date.

A citywide project that tracked Chicago’s air pollution using more than 100 low-cost air quality sensors ended last week after the tech company Microsoft, which led the project, quietly announced to its users that it was shuttering the program.

Microsoft’s air quality monitoring program, called Project Eclipse, began in July 2021 when it placed air sensors atop bus shelters across the city in partnership with the city of Chicago, the advertising firm JCDecaux, which designs the city’s bus shelters, Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center, and several community organizations. For almost two years, the sensors delivered one of the few detailed pictures of how air pollution varies by neighborhood in the U.S. New York City’s fleet of cars with air sensors and community air survey are rare examples of similar projects.

In a statement from the company, Microsoft said it decided to close its air quality initiative after its research arm, which “continuously evaluates research projects to determine directions and future investment,” had decided now was “a natural point to conclude the work.”

But the company declined to comment on whether the closure of Project Eclipse had anything to do with recent layoffs at the company, which led to 10,000 employees losing their jobs.

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