Safe to Swim

Problem Statement

It remains awkward to answer the simple question of "can we swim at the beach?" – this despite an incredible wealth of water quality information for Lake Champlain. The VT Department of Health has a very informative tracker, but it is nearly unusable on mobile devices. We need to be able to access a user-friendly application from any device that gives people real time information about whether the beach they want to visit is safe to swim in.

Project Summary

The original suggestion for this project came from a casual conversation with BTV Ignight and the City of Burlington.  There are a number of resources that already try to address this problem, but the ones I've seen fall short of an elegant, comprehensive solution:

It is likely that the necessary data may be readily available.  The UVM Rubinstein school is another potential source of reliable on water quality data.  With some coordination and effort this could be mapped and quickly prototyped.

Current Status

Protyping Image Analysis Datasource

The data that is currently available tends to be highly reliable, but frequently out of date.  We are exploring the posibility of creating a new datasource that has the opposite properties: trading off some reliability for availability.  The Image Analyzer prototype is a machine learning approach that takes images submitted via a simple mobile app and attempts to apply machine learning approaches to determine whether an image represents an algae bloom.  

This project will begin simply, and then we will explore the extent to which actionable data can be sourced from images.  Ultimately the hope is that this method can provide an additional, potentially real-time datasource to assist in determining whether an algea bloom exists in a given place and time.