Bringing Air Quality Monitoring and Management into Focus

In an article for Smart Cities Dive, Navigant Research shares technology-driven trends for understanding and addressing urban air pollution

Urban air pollution is on the rise as cities around the world continue to feel the impacts of increased economic growth and population growth. More vehicle use, industrial activity, and energy use are all contributing factors, and as the problem grows in severity, cities are looking for new ways to understand and address air quality issues.

In an article for Smart Cities Dive, Ryan Citron, research analyst at Navigant Research, said a few trends are encouraging cities to move beyond the large and costly environmental monitoring stations they’re currently using and toward new technology-driven solutions.

“With most of the world’s population living in cities where air quality levels exceed World Health Organization (WHO) limits, the need to monitor and manage air quality has become urgent,” Citron said. “… With an additional 2.5 billion people expected to be living in cities by 2050, according to the United Nations, a growing array of innovative and effective air quality monitoring and management solutions will be needed to manage the influx of people and their associated environmental impacts.”

Trends in Air Quality Monitoring and Management

  • Low-cost sensor networks: Recent advances in sensor and communications technology has led to air quality monitoring solutions that are far smaller in size, less expensive, and more localized. Due to these advantages, the use of lower cost sensor nodes ($200 to $3,000 per sensor) with wireless communication systems is one the rise, filling in the gaps left by legacy environmental monitoring stations.
  • Crowdsourcing: An increasing accessibility of pollution data through crowdsourcing is helping to advance the air quality monitoring market. As more people globally begin to use air quality monitors in and around their homes and workplaces, an increasing number of data points will come online, enabling more accurate and localized air pollution maps available for free to the public.
  • Air quality management: Numerous technologies and policies are being deployed to help decrease and manage air pollution levels in cities, including congestion charging and low emission zones, electrification of public transport, electric and automated vehicles, shared mobility programs, smart parking systems, and expanded bicycle infrastructure.
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