Google Maps has a new update for iPhone and Android smartphone users that will make exploring the great outdoors safer this summer. When using the app on your phone, you’ll now have the option to view your local area’s Air Quality Index, along with guidance on what’s safe (or not safe) to do outdoors.
Data is collected from government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (opens in new tab) in the USA and PurpleAir (opens in new tab) – a network of privately owned air quality sensors whose data is pooled to create a map of air quality available to the public at a more local level.
To access this new air quality information, all you have to do is open the Google Maps app, tap on the layers icon (it’s the pile of squares under the search bar in the top right), and select Air Quality. in the lower right corner.
Data is currently only available for parts of the US, Australia and India, but we expect support for other regions to be added over time. Those of you in the US will also be able to access PurpleAir local information on Google Nest speakers and Google Nest hub screens.
Google Maps is heating up
In addition to air quality, Google will also add active wildfire data to its map services.
Next to the air quality layer in Google Maps is the Wildfires layer. Enabling this will provide details on nearby active fires, using data from the National Interagency Fire Center in the US, as well as agencies in other regions.
You can also use Google Search to search for “fires near me” to see information about local fires, including air quality and current safety guidelines. Google hopes to add smoke data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to further improve its US services.
As with the air quality feature, Google’s wildfire data is still not as comprehensive as it could be, so remember to take necessary precautions when exploring the great outdoors and follow the most up-to-date local guidance on how to avoid certain areas.
If you’re looking for more Google Maps tips, check out this guide on how to save money on gas using the service or this guide to five things you didn’t know Google Maps could do.