Air quality and environmental sensing to improve quality of life in Smart Cities

In Australia, Sydney and New South Wales are experiencing very poor air quality, and fifteen health warnings have been issued since the start of the bushfire emergency. An extensive air quality monitoring system tracks primary pollutants such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide, together with fine particles as PM10 and PM2.5, but the University of Sidney is working to improve the sensing technology and allow the real-time detection of particulates and a more accurate reading.

Air quality sensors play an increasingly important role in Smart Cities: as natural and human factors worsen pollution, real-time, localised and accurate air quality information is needed to define adequate health policies. The problem is getting more and serious, even in Europe and the US. According to a new report, about 108 million of Americans live in regions that saw more than 100 days with unhealthy air quality in 2018. The West Coast stands out as one of the worst areas (Riverside, CA registered the most days with unhealthy levels of pollutants), but the situation is also difficult in Chicago, Dallas-Forth Worth, Houston, Atlanta, and Detroit. Smart IoT devices can be beneficial in enabling a careful environmental sensing, collecting field data to feed advanced analysis and decision-making processes. In most cases, air quality and other environmental sensors are mounted on smart streetlight poles, capitalizing on existing or new public lighting infrastructures to connect and integrate all urban IoT objects. A single, interoperable network is thus the best possible foundation for any far-sighted Smart City program. Smart City projects often fail to move beyond the pilot stage, say experts from business analyst Gartner. By 2023, they predict that 30% of smart urban projects will be discontinued for the inability for the technology to cope with growing demand, residents’ worries about privacy and personal data treatment, or the disappointing ROI. If a City manager is seeking a smart way to make its community more dynamic, safe and liveable, interoperability and openness should be the watchwords.

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