The World Health Organization has recently stated air pollution is the most harmful environmental hazard that causes 400,000 deaths in the developed world each year.
90% of the European urban population is exposed to increased levels of air pollutants. Natural processes and human activities such as transport, agriculture, heating, and waste incineration, cause carbon dioxide and particulate matter to come into environment in the form of powder and are increasing mortality rates caused by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. This is becoming a more and more serious issue in providing a quality urban life. If cities want to follow environmental standards, reduce the number of illnesses induced by air pollution, and aim to lower emissions, they will first have to start changing their attitude towards the environment and, above all, take action.
Although tracing centers of harmful emissions is difficult and demanding, cities should not hesitate when it comes to providing air quality. They should inform their citizens about the details regarding the stage of air pollution they are exposed to, and what environment they live in. Since national automatic measurement stations are not able to provide the latter, cities are looking for solutions in information technology.
In London, a smart system for daily notification about the contamination of individual city areas has already been established. Residents can thus be notified about the exceeded levels on their mobile devices. With the acquired data, local authorities can decide much more easily in which areas they will not build new schools, hospitals and retirement homes to prevent diseases induced by increased exposure to unclean air.
The development of smaller and more affordable sensors, connected through a network, enables cities to deal with much more precise environmental measurements. Of course, gathered data alone does not reduce pollution, but it can encourage citizens and city authorities to respond appropriately. For example, if in certain areas the system detects an increasing rate of air pollution caused by traffic, cities can restrict the traffic flow to cars only, or completely close the roads. Based on the obtained information, citizens are able to make health-related decisions and, for instance, avoid city areas where measuring devices detect high level of pollution.
Cities can use systems to monitor pollution level in different areas. However, monitoring is not enough – if they wish to reduce emissions, they must start making long-term decisions, such as:
- close city centers for traffic
- power public transport with renewable resources
- monitor industrial plants.
Introducing measures at the right time will definitely minimize or completely curb the consequences of pollution, whilst functionality provided by the platform for smart urban management will also come in handy.