A Breath of Fresh Air: IoT Big Data Helping to Improve London’s Air Quality

December 11, 2017

Poor air quality in major cities can expose citizens to air pollution and lead to health risks such as asthma attacks, lung cancer, heart disease or chronic bronchitis. Air quality represents a major challenge for governments and regulators particularly as cities grow. In many cities, the air quality monitoring infrastructure is limited to fixed monitoring stations which means that the data collected is often sparse, making it difficult for scientists to understand the levels of pollution experienced by citizens in their daily lives. The development of the Internet of Things (IoT) and advances in technology have led to the availability of small, portable, low cost, and always connected sensors that can be attached to a variety of different things such as street furniture, bicycles or cars or even carried by people. These sensors can measure and report air quality to data collection platforms in near real time and provide a more accurate picture of the air quality across the cityscape. The data provided by these sensors allows city management to understand current challenges, provide relevant and timely prevention advice to citizens and support better planning for future growth.

The GSMA teamed with the Royal Borough of Greenwich on a project called “Smart London” with the aim of improving the understanding of air quality across the Borough using a combination of mobile sensors and Big Data analytical techniques. As part of this air quality proof of concept, the GSMA and Greenwich deployed a range of low-cost static and mobile IoT sensors in a variety of different ways such as attached to bikes, carried by people on foot and attached to vehicles. In addition air quality data from existing Greenwich air quality monitoring stations was collected. Collectively these sensors provided air quality data from across Greenwich from multiple different locations throughout the day. Additional air quality data was gathered using a roving laboratory in a battery-powered van dubbed ‘The Smogmobile’ as it drove around Greenwich. The “Smogmobile” contained equipment that can measure greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane as well as Ozone, nitrogen dioxide and small particulate pollutants that are known to have a significant impact on health particularly because they can get into the bloodstream.

The Role of IoT Big Data

Operators have a key role to play in providing robust and secure communications connectivity for IoT air quality applications. This comprises both basic connectivity using licensed spectrum as well as device management solutions – where operators can offer highly scalable services. In addition, operators are highly experienced in delivering secure and scalable data analytics services. The GSMA is working with operators, world-wide, to develop common IoT and Big Data solution offerings to facilitate the next generation of data-driven IoT solutions. Advances in computing power, Big Data technologies and analytical services and Mobile IoT technologies, create opportunities for operators and their customers to benefit from new data products, services and solutions.

This air quality proof of concept combines the interests of mobile operators, city administrators, citizens and other stakeholders in further understanding how the IoT and Big Data analytics can assist in understanding air pollution for the benefit of Greenwich residents, commuters and visitors. There is increasing interest from the public, city administrators and regulators in the quality of air within cities across the world and the Greenwich proof of concept is intended to provide a “lighthouse” for adoption elsewhere. Globally, other cities face similar challenges and many other air quality initiatives are underway, for example China Mobile is working with Chongqing City in China, also Telefonica and Orange are working with cities in France, Spain, Portugal and Brazil.

For further information, please go to GSMA Smart London

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