Concerns about the impact on health from endemic air pollution levels in many cities across the globe, with Beijing as the extreme example, is raising awareness about not only the need for accurate air quality measurements but also the preventive measures needed to avoid regularly exceeding internationally agreed thresholds. Air quality improvement is rapidly becoming a top priority smart cities objective especially as it relates to the very dangerous atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) often referred to as fine dust, finds ABI Research, a market-foresight advisory firm providing strategic guidance on the most compelling transformative technologies. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the yearly number of fatalities globally at 7 million, far more than the 1.3 million people dying in traffic accidents.
“The first step for cities is to build a dense network of air quality monitoring stations,” said Dominique Bonte, Vice President End Markets at ABI Research. The global number of public sensor stations is expected to increase from over 8,000 in 2019 to around 31,000 in 2024. "The second step is to make air quality data available to the public via air quality monitoring network websites managed by the European Environment Agency (EEA)’s and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) websites or private initiatives likes AirVisual’s Air Quality Monitoring Network predicting air quality in over 10,000 locations worldwide made accessible through smartphone apps.“
In order to mitigate the very high cost of professional grade air quality monitoring stations, new approaches and business models are being explored. Nokia recently launched its Sensing-as-a-Service platform allowing cities, public safety authorities, and governments to adopt Air Quality Sensors-as-a-Service by rolling out CAPEX-free environmental data analytics capabilities. Mobile air quality sensors are being tested by the City of London in the form of both Google StreetView cars and children’s school bags being fitted with sensors that allow much more spatially granular measurements compared to fixed stations. Consumer-grade smart home sensors and wearable air quality sensors from vendors like Plume Labs, though less accurate, can complement official air quality monitoring stations.
Another key trend is the emergence of intelligent air quality sensors with Siemens’ City Air Management (CyAM) solution. CyAM allows air pollution levels in cities to be predicted 3 to 5 days in advance, based on historical and current data on air quality, weather, and traffic patterns. This enables cities to proactively put timely measures in place to avoid thresholds being exceeded.
Cities’ response modes range from reactive, symptom-fighting approaches to structural preventative measures. Banning, limiting, and/or discouraging the use of certain types of polluting vehicles in the form of emission zones has become very popular across Europe with the City of London recently announcing an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The city of Munich has tested a closed-loop approach intelligently rerouting traffic around schools and air pollution hotspots, an example of near real-time response management. However, the only long-term solution for cities is the massive electrification of transportation, the adoption of distributed renewable energy generation, and more generally, the design of carbon-neutral cities.
These findings are from ABI Research’s Air Quality Monitoring and Sustainability Technologies for Smart Cities application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s Smart Cities and Smart Spaces research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Application Analysis reports present in-depth analysis of key market trends and factors for a specific application, which could focus on an individual market or geography.
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