Solving Air Pollution Problems With IoT-Led Solutions

Current data show that air pollution is a serious problem and needs to be tackled. IoT technologies and devices provide a way to monitor air quality and take action accordingly.

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Person wearing a gas mask
Illustration: © IoT For All

According to the World Bank Report 2013, air pollution deaths cost the global economy about $225 billion in lost labor income and about $5.11 trillion in welfare losses. At the same time, polluted air was reported as the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide.

The problem of air pollution is real. When 92 percent of the world population is living in places where the WHO air quality guideline levels aren’t met and the majority of the world’s population is under the risks caused by poor air quality, actions need to be taken to solve the problem.

“It’s increasingly clear that today’s environmental conditions are not sustainable.”

— Maciej Kranz, Vice-President, Strategic Innovation, Cisco Systems Inc. (World Economic Forum Annual Meeting)

At the same time, due to the scale of the issue, air pollution has become a global challenge not only for citizens but also for governments, regulators and city administrators.

In order to take informed actions to solve the problem, accurate air quality monitoring is required. Air quality monitoring infrastructure helps in identifying the sources of pollution and provides the basis for further action. Monitoring air is often associated with installing equipment that’s large, heavy and very expensive. However, the application of IoT (Internet of Things) technologies can provide a way to measure and report air quality with sensors that are more cost-efficient and provide more precise data than ever before.

How IoT-Led Air Quality Solutions Work?

Specially configured sensors monitor ambient air for CO2, NOx and particulate matter. Decibel meters are installed to identify areas of the city that are dangerously polluted with noise. This stream of data is turned into a heat map showing varying degrees of air quality. Over time, municipalities get a clear view of problematic areas, enforcing emission restrictions and optimizing infrastructure. Residents will breathe easier and the city will be at the forefront of quality-of-life innovation. Let’s look at an example.

How does Chicago Use IoT to Control Air Quality?

Chicago is among the most heavily polluted urban areas. In 2018, Chicago was ranked the 22nd most polluted city in the US. To tackle the issue of air pollution, a new IoT project called “array of things” was developed by Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago in partnership with the City of Chicago. The project includes the installation of 200 nodes to collect real-time data about the city’s environment including air quality, climate and traffic. The collected data can be used by various stakeholders such as engineers, scientists and policymakers who can work together to find the solutions for improving air quality in Chicago.

What Role Does the Government Play?

Environmental monitoring including controlling air quality is an important initiative that requires support from the municipal government. The city might not be the sole funder, but it has an important role in planning and executing city-wide decisions. Moreover, some of the best use cases for IoT deployment require public infrastructure and involve policy issues. Some of the best practices are discussed in the report of Smart city government rankings. World Bank Group also emphasizes the importance of government for successful deployment of IoT technologies: “Governments have a vital role in catalyzing the space and contributing as partners/leaders in the long term.”

By solving the issue of polluted air, governments create a more livable and sustainable environment for the residents.

References

https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/handle/10986/25013

https://www.stateofglobalair.org/sites/default/files/soga-2018-report.pdf

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/27-09-2016-who-releases-country-estimates-on-air-pollution-exposure-and-health-impact

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/authors/maciej-kranz

http://arrayofthings.github.io/index.html

https://www.lung.org/assets/documents/healthy-air/state-of-the-air/sota-2018-full.pdf

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5b3c517fec4eb767a04e73ff/t/5b513c57aa4a99f62d168e60/1532050650562/Eden-OXD_Top+50+Smart+City+Governments.pdf

http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/610081509689089303/pdf/120876-REVISED-WP-PUBLIC-Internet-of-Things-Report.pdf

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