Air pollution in China could be big business

Two of the world’s largest technology firms, IBM and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), are vying to tap the fast-growing market for forecasting air quality in China.

Bouts of smog enveloping Beijing already prompted authorities to declare two unprecedented “red alerts” this month, and while prediction technology won’t be able to make the air better, it could be a step toward helping the city’s 22M people to live with it.

IBM and Microsoft’s advances in “cognitive computing” can provide predictions for the air quality index up to 10 days in advance using data on weather, traffic and factory use.

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