If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us one anything, it is that breathing clean air is a birthright we need to defend and for which we need to adjust our lifestyles. As vehicles ground to a halt globally, some people saw the shade of blue the sky should be for the first time ever. While this is profoundly sad, it helped us realize that air pollution is preventable if we work together. Many would argue that this will be too expensive and is currently impossible due to the socio-economic situation in developing countries – yet we believe it is possible with the help of smart technology.
Start with air pollution data
Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Today, smart cities move towards gathering large pools of data daily – from traffic patterns and waste collection signals to air pollutants. This data is used to create real-time reports about the city’s infrastructure and pain points, which can then be turned into solutions aiming right at the heart of the problems. But how do you collect this data?
This is not the first time we’ve mentioned IoT sensors on this blog – they’re the neurons of the smart city. IoT sensors come in different shapes and sizes but are typically small enough to fit on a lighting pole. With air pollution monitoring, this is a crucial development that has helped us move forward in the past few years.
It wasn’t long ago when air monitoring stations were big and very expensive, and cities often chose to install two or three of them for the whole urban area. The problem is that air pollutants can vary a lot even a few blocks away, so this approach didn’t yield enough information to create a holistic view of the city’s air quality. In recent years, smaller IoT sensors have become the norm. They are not as sensitive as their bigger counterparts, but they can paint a better picture of what the air is like in a specific area and what the problems are there, compared to the neighbouring area. Creating a denser network of smaller sensors can help monitor more closely pollution patterns which in turn helps create a more robust action plan for solving problems, area by area.
Find the culprits: pinpoint specific air pollutants
Raw data needs to be carefully analyzed over a certain period to yield a report on the trends and tendencies in the area studied. With air pollution, meteorological conditions play a crucial role, so temperature, humidity and other factors also need to be taken into consideration. Smog-forming emissions (nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, etc.) and greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, etc.) can be easily monitored so that when they reach dangerous levels, city management can take quick measures to drive them down according to each specific situation. Gases and particulate matter composition can vary from one area to another, so these measures can be taken locally without disrupting processes in unaffected parts of the city.
Find solutions to air pollution
What are the potential solutions to air pollution? Depending on the type of pollution and the area, local authorities can take steps to drive pollutant emissions down, or prevent their increase in the first place:
- Place restrictions on the number of vehicles in high traffic areas
- Focus on the importance of good maintenance of personal and public vehicles
- Introduce buffer parking zones on the outskirts of high traffic areas and improve public transportation services to meet the needs of commuters
- Introduce free public transportation tickets in days/weeks when air pollution is high
- Work with transportation providers such as e-bikes, e-scooters, shared mobility services, to create a MaaS network that facilitates the use of alternative transportation throughout the city
- Create a better infrastructure for e-mobility in highly affected areas
- Impose local taxes on the residential use of coal and wood-burning heaters; work with communities to help them transition to electrical heating (including the improvement of insulation practices)
- Enforce the use of specialized air purifying filters in industrial zones in or near the city
- Focus on introducing more green spaces in the city
- Find the ROI of a smart air monitoring platform
The WHO has reported year after year that more than 80% of urban areas face air pollution challenges. This translates into millions of deaths every year – deaths that can be avoided. So, one way of thinking about the ROI of investing in proper air monitoring and finding better solutions is in the lives that will be saved, as well as the improvement of the lives of everyone in the city. Just imagine the net worth of healthcare services that are needed to support people who are constantly exposed to bad air – from asthma to emphysema and cardiovascular problems. It is estimated that urban air pollution can lower life expectancy by up to 22 months. Some studies even suggest that air pollution might be linked to global diabetes and decreased cognitive performance.
By taking these findings into consideration, cities can better communicate the need for public spending on smarter air monitoring.
How can we help?
Telelink City can help your city thrive by providing a diverse portfolio of smart technologies. One of them is air monitoring solutions that suit cities of all sizes. We can build and take care of a tailor-made network of IoT sensors, and provide a robust reporting back office that is the stepping stone to making more informed decisions on local policies. Our air monitoring solution can be deployed on a SaaS basis so that initial funding is one thing less you need to worry about. Contact us today so we can discuss the steps towards better air in your city!