London intros major IoT project to clean up city’s “filthy air”, tackle “public health crisis”
A major new internet of things (IoT) project has launched in London to investigate improve the city’s toxic air. The initiative, Breathe London, claims “the world’s most advanced and comprehensive network of air quality monitors”.
The project is a collaboration between the Mayor of London, the Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE), and Google Earth Outreach. It is funded by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF).
It makes use of 100 sensors, mounted on lampposts and buildings around the city, in air-pollution black-spots and sensitive locations, such as schools and nurseries. These have been installed over the past 12 months, and are operated by London’s borough administrations and King’s College London.
As part of Breathe London, Google has also equipped two Street View cars with air quality sensors. These will take pollution readings every 30 metres around London, capturing readings the fixed monitors may miss.
Readings from both fixed and mobile air sensors will be combined to build a view of London’s air quality, and its most polluted locations, over the course of a year. The goal is to gain new insights into the city’s “air quality crisis” and its sources of pollution.
Data from the sensors will also produce a live “hyperlocal image” of the city’s air quality, made available with air-quality metrics for the public to view on an interactive online map on the Breathe London website. The map will allow more accurate pollution forecasting, according to the project’s authors.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “London’s filthy air is a public health crisis that leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness.
“An issue this large and complex requires bold and innovative action, so I’m proud we’re leading the world in establishing this new monitoring network – allowing Londoners to see the levels of pollution at a local level.”
Khan suggested the information will benefit those in deprived areas most. He is seeking ways also to “clean up” London buses, fund a scheme to help businesses remove high-polluting vans from the streets, and, from April, launch an ultra low emission zone in the centre of town.
Buried in the political turmoil of Brexit, the UK government also slipped out a ‘clean air strategy’ this week. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) pledged to bring the UK’s air quality into line with WHO guidelines with a set of policies to tackle emissions from biomass and agriculture, and phase out conventional cars from 2040.
Response to the updated strategy was mixed, not least from Khan himself.
“We can’t win this battle without more help from the Government, who, as we saw from their hugely disappointing Clean Air Strategy yesterday, are still failing to take this problem seriously and offer the support London needs to tackle this public health crisis,” he said at his own project’s launch, at the Charlotte Sharman Primary School in Southwark, south London.
The Charlotte Sharman Primary School was also one of 50 schools involved in the Mayor’s air quality audits programme last year. The school has now received £10,000 to help implement air quality improvements, including the installation of a new ‘green wall’.
The Breathe London project was devised by City Hall and the C40 Cities, a global alliance of cities committed to addressing climate change. It will be rolled out to cities around the world, Breathe London said in a statement.
Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40, said: “The citizens of Paris, London and all the great cities of the world have a right to clean air to breathe. C40 is proud to support the efforts of Mayor Khan to better understand and map the air pollution across London.
“Cities around the world will be watching the results of this project very closely as we work together to clean the air that our citizens breathe and reduce the dangerous emissions that cause climate change.”