This guest blog has been exclusively submitted and written by Raye Jen.

In July, Bradford and Birmingham announced that they were partnering with the BT subsidiary InLink to use sensor technology for measuring air quality. By implementing the Internet of Things-based (IoT) technology in their InLink air quality sensors, city governments will be able to collect the necessary measurements in real time. Collected data points will then be delivered to the Bradford City Council and the University of Birmingham for further analysis.

This news comes less than a year after Liverpool City Region’s Environmental Monitoring Co-Creation event was held at Sensor City. At the event, over 40 delegates from both industry and academia gathered to explore synergistic opportunities and possible collaborations related to environmental monitoring, as in the case of the Birmingham and Bradford initiatives.

These developments in clean air science are fantastic news, as smart city initiatives are long overdue across England.

Fighting Back Together

A number of initiatives have begun all over the Liverpool City Region to combat the problem of air quality. A notable contribution comes from Sensor City resident Pulse Systems who uses advanced sensor technology to precisely measure metrics in buildings and workspaces, including CO2 levels and air quality. Similarly, Hexsor Scientific uses its cutting-edge technology to assess contaminants in water, soil, and air. Additionally, AWS Growth Package Winner Envirowatch uses sensors to give their clients an accurate picture of the environment and its main pollutants, allowing users to fully understand the intricacies of air pollution in our daily lives.

Desperate Times Call for Digital Measures

Despite these key improvements and an array of initiatives over the past decade, the quality of air in key cities is still significantly poor — posing worrisome effects not only on our environment, but on the health of citizens as well.

The circumstances have indeed become so dire that Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl from London, died due to an asthma attack, purportedly linked to the city’s illegal levels of air pollution. Although the family’s request to have air pollution cited as her cause of death was initially denied, the attorney general allowed a new inquest this year thanks to new evidence that links her death to this environmental hazard.

Government officials are becoming more concerned about the dangerous levels of air pollution and its subsequent effects. Case in point, a policy paper published by the UK government earlier this year stressed the urgent need to rehabilitate the country’s air quality. According to the report, one of the most prominent sources of air pollutants is particulate matter. The two biggest contributors to this contaminant are domestic burning of solid fuels and wood, as well as road transport.

The BBC’s environmental correspondent Matt McGrath shares that the government will halt the sale of the most dangerous fuels and will ensure that only the cleanest stoves will be available to the public by 2022 to tackle the problem of domestic burning. Addressing the second main contributor that is road transport, however, is a trickier and costlier affair. Road congestion has long been an issue across UK cities, with London, Edinburgh, and Birmingham topping the list of slowest roads. In fact, Sergio Barata reports on Verizon Connect that the longest traffic jam in the UK lasted a staggering 15 hours over just 36 miles — an extreme situation that sheds light on the £9 billion that the congestion on major UK roads every year costs the UK economy. This congestion not only wastes valuable time and resources, but also translates to massive amounts of exhaust in the air. The situation has gotten so bad that government health offices have started encouraging citizens to stay away from congested roads when going outside.

What Now?

Thankfully, things are starting to look up, as city governments are turning to digital measures like IoT air sensors to reduce the aforementioned ill effects on the environment. In this regard, the IoT-enabled booths from BT will help regulate the emissions being released since the technology is equipped to thoroughly monitor the condition of air.

Neil Scoresby, the general manager of Payphones and InLinkUK at BT, is optimistic about the IoT air quality sensors, saying, “This is a great example of how BT is working with communities in cities like Birmingham to explore how the IoT capability of the InLinks can support a range of smart city initiatives.” And with Bradford and Birmingham leading the way, the future of the UK’s air quality looks bright — or rather, clean.

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