As per WHO, nearly 7 million people around the world die from diseases caused by fine particles in polluted air. The stakes are greater than many realise. Robert Heinecke, CEO of Hamburg-based Breeze Technologies said during Germany’s Digital Hub Initiative 2020.
He further added that the main problem is that the death certificate will never say the cause of death is air pollution. It will say the cause of death is asthma, lung disease, etc. However, all of such diseases have been linked to air pollution by many scientific studies. Hence, it is more likely that the death rate is more in the polluted areas.
Heinecke’s Breeze Technologies is the winner of the startup event Digital Hub Initiative. He further shows how one of the most polluted cities is still using traditional ways to fight the rapidly growing threat of air pollution.
The Founding Of Advanced Air Quality Enhancing Startup – Case Study
It was 2014 when Heinecke was working in Istanbul, the most polluted city in Turkey. The air was so bad that the other side of the street was barely visible. Eager to investigate, he went deeper into understanding what the city had to tackle this problem. He found that like many cities in the world, Istanbul was using bulky monitoring stations from the 60s and 70s.
These systems are big, so they cost a million euros. Hence cities can afford very few of them. For instance, Hamburg had only 15. More importantly, data from these machines did not provide actionable insights.
He was shocked to know cities were using these obsolete devices to address such a grave problem. This was despite the availability of IoT, machine learning and AI. That’s when Breeze Technologies came into being.
Today, the company is on a mission to make cities more breathable by utilising IoT, AI and Big Data. They have developed sensors to measure air quality in urban areas including industrial sites.
The innovative side is that their solution provides better quality data at a price that is 1000 times cheaper than traditional systems. Besides, the sensors are so small that they can fit easily anywhere on a wall, for example.
By moving the sensor to the cloud, the complexity of conventional systems is completely eliminated, in terms of both size and effectiveness. Algorithms and machine learning perform validity checks, data calibration, management, retention and more in real-time.
This enables getting accurate data that can help clients take action against air pollution. First, they can take preventive measures such as introducing electric bus fleets. And second, they can focus on reactive measures like demand-based street cleaning. Gathering all the data from different clients can help adopt best practices.
Importance Of Data Accessibility
Taking a step ahead, Breeze Technologies developed Breeze Citizen Portal to share data with citizens. This free public portal provides comprehensive and location-specific air quality data to citizens.
For example, if you are looking to buy a residential property, you can use the data to find locations with the best air quality. Or, if you are a jogger, you can use the data to plan the healthiest route for your exercise. This is how smart cities can actually empower people including the elderly and children. This can help citizens lead a healthy life by avoiding places with bad air quality.
Recently, Breeze Technologies partnered with Proximi.io to initiate a new project. The collaboration will plan the best walking route based on air quality. The beta stage is about to launch this year in Hamburg.
Better Air Quality In Schools
As part of mayor Sadiq Khan’s air quality audit programme, 200 London schools in highly polluted areas will implement these measures. This will be an extension of audits already carried out in 50 schools across 23 boroughs.
The audits evaluated the air quality in some of the worst polluted schools. Based on the result, it provided a series of recommendations to protect students. A £1m fund was issued for the programme. Each of the 50 schools received a starter grant of £10,000. It also enabled the application of green infrastructure funding in areas exceeding legal air pollution limits.
As per Public Health England, Newham (one of the 23 boroughs) has one of the highest deaths due to air quality. Seven out of 100 deaths are attributed to dirty air. Mayor Khan says that London’s toxic air is directly harming children’s health. Hence, they are working with boroughs like Newham to secure healthier air for future generations.
Rokhsana Fiaz, Mayor of Newham added that the borough has one of the youngest populations living with the worst air quality in the UK. Newham also has the highest number of children admitted to hospital because of asthma-related conditions. Therefore, it is critical to work together to address the pollution that threatens our lives.
Air quality sensors are being provided for loan at Itäkeskus, Vallila and Viikki libraries and Central Library Oodi in Helsinki. This is part of the UrbanSense project. It is a collaboration between the city of Helsinki, the University of Helsinki and the City’s innovation startup Forum Virium Helsinki.
The purpose of the initiative is to collect data on air quality in different areas of the city. These sensors are worn on the wrist and can measure the carbon dioxide concentration of outdoor air. The monitored results can be viewed on a smartphone application. The air quality measurements provide data on things such as redirecting traffic during specific times of the day.
The sensor transmits data to the user’s phone using Bluetooth. The data can be accessed using the application developed by air pollution monitoring app expert Game.io. The same data is also transmitted to the University of Helsinki for research purposes. The data can also be viewed by anyone on the geme.io website and on the libraries’ information board.
These sensors made of biodegradable plastic and created using 3D printing are available for two weeks on a loan. The sensors are still under the testing stage and are not yet accurate. Hence, user experience and feedback are essential for further development. Currently, ten sensors are available under the loan scheme.
Mobile Sensing Fleet In Brooklyn
Environmental company Aclima is using a mobile sensing fleet throughout Brooklyn. The aim is to produce and analyse millions of air pollution and greenhouse gas measurement block by block.
Davida Herzi, co-founder and CEO of Aclima said on Medium. In collaboration with the EPA, EPRI, and Envair, Herzi conducted research. It showed that air pollution can differ by as much as eight times from one block to the neighbouring one.
They will understand the localised impact of emissions block by block. This will provide key insights into the three-month average of emissions and exposures at the street level. As per Herzi, every week Aclima sends billions of new air quality points to its cloud-based software Aclima Pro.
This software can be used by communities, governments, and businesses to help reduce emissions and their impacts. Aclima engineers deployed the mobile sensing devices on low or zero emission vehicles. So, as the vehicle drives through the city streets, air samples pass through a specially designed intake. Then these air samples are routed to the device for analysis.
A group of sensors and communications components together geotag the air quality data points. A continuous flow of hyperlocal measurements is then sent to the cloud. Results from Aclima’s initial hyperlocal measurement campaign in NYC will be shared publicly later this year.