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For the last decade, Urban Air Quality Platforms (UAQPs) have been an important tool for collecting, processing and visualising hyperlocal data about urban emissions. Similarly, UAQPs are generally open for access providing transparency and air pollution awareness. Data can be provisioned either by dispersed sensors across the city or through satellite imagery. The sensors collecting the data can be installed either by an operator (e.g. the municipality) or on private property.

This solution intends to solve the following problems: 

Siloed AQ data

Unaccounted emissions

Restricted data access

Misidentification of emission sources




The main goal of UAQPs is to raise awareness on the quality of urban air. Thereby, it intends to initiate actions to address pollution. Whereas some benefits are likely to be fulfiled with a basic implementation of the solution, the fulfilment of the potential benefits depends on the functions implemented in a specific project. The achievable benefits of a system containing all the listed functions are shown as potential benefits, whereas the general benefits can be reached by implementing the mandatory functions only.

Potential Benefits
  • Improving life quality

  • Promoting sustainable behavior

  • Reducing local air pollution

  • Promoting active living

  • Promoting sustainable private transport models

  • Improving traffic management

  • Increased data transparency

  • Improved data accessibility

  • Creating new jobs

  • Encouraging digital entrepreneurship

  • Reducing GHG emissions

  • Enabling new business opportunities


Functions help you to understand what the products can do for you and which ones will help you achieve your goals.
Each Solution has at least one mandatory function, which is needed to achieve the basic purpose of the Solution, and several additional functions, which are features that can be added to provide additional benefits.

Mandatory Functions
    Collecting data on local air quality

    Products as sensors collecting data on local air quality sensors

    Informing citizens about air quality

    Products informing citizens about local or hyperlocal air quality, such as an App or a website

Potential Functions
    Giving suggestion on behavioural changes

    Products generating and giving advices on optimization of citizens’ behaviour

    Enabling citizen participation

    Products allowing citizens to offer private property to install sensors


How air quality data is visualised is rather straightforward, through a dashboard in a web browser platform or mobile app. However, what truly differs is the methods of data collection and processing. The following variants give an overview of four different data collecting methods.    


Low-cost air quality sensors are becoming widely used for broad urban applications, as they offer air pollution monitoring at a lower cost than conventional methods, thus allowing a higher density deployment.

Metal oxide sensors are the most affordable in the market. In 2020, the approximate cost of such system ranged between 1,000 – 5,000 EUR. With higher sensor cost, the response time and sensitivity to temperature and humidity variations improves.

Therefore, a low-cost sensor deployment must be accompanied by a machine learning algorithm that can reproduce sensor responses at different measurement sites and conditions. Due to the influence of meteorological parameters on a sensor signal, simple correction and/or calibration is not always possible.


Participatory sensing is the action of citizens voluntarily using their computational devices to capture and share sensed data from their surrounding environments in order to monitor and analyse air quality. Recent technological advances in sensor technology have allowed for the creation of portable as well as visually appealing sensors that can be carried or be installed in backyards. These sensors can both provide air quality data to a central UAQP and inform citizens of the surrounding air quality through an app.

Use Cases

Using mobile data to calculate air pollution

With increasing pollution becoming one of the biggest struggles of cities, they have to collect precise air quality data before initiating concrete measures. In this project Telefonica Next uses anonymised mobile network data to calculate air pollution.

Mobile air pollution monitoring on buses

Urban air pollution is hyper-local. Deadly air pollution varies more than 8x within 200 meters, which is however not reflected on current air pollution maps. AirVeraCity provides people actionable air quality information by accurately measuring air pollution from a mobile platform.


While ground sensing can accurately measure air pollutant concentration, its coverage is limited to the deployment of sensors. Therefore, researchers in Europe, have developed a software that uses fine spatial resolution sensors to determine air quality at an urban level. This is achieved through a radiometric comparison of satellite imagery of a clear day to a polluted day. This provides a relative quantitative scale of air pollution, which is used in conjunction with ground-based monitors to develop spatially resolved maps of air pollution (Engel-Cox et. al, 2012)

The European Space Agency is nowadays the leading organisation in fostering remote sensing satellite imagery for the improvement of air quality. Projects such as Copernicus provide satellite information to help service providers, public authorities and other international organisations improve European citizens' quality of life.

Cost Structure

Fixed Costs 
Software (Including API and GUI): 25 %                                                                           
Sensors: 75 %  
Variable Costs 
Operation & Maintenance: 50 % of Fixed Costs                   

Legal Requirements


European Union policy on air quality aims to develop and implement appropriate instruments to improve air quality. Therefore, European States have to divide their territory into several zones and agglomerations. In these zones and agglomerations, the Member States need to undertake assessments of air pollution levels using measurements, modelling, and other empirical techniques – and report air quality data to the European Commission accordingly.

The EC has set air pollutants concentration limits enforcing member states to address the sources responsibly. In addition, information on air quality should be disseminated to the public. (European Commission, 2018)

  • Ambient Air Quality Directive 2008/50/EC: The directive provides the current framework for the control of ambient concentrations of air pollution in the EU. The control of emissions from mobile sources, improving fuel quality, and promoting and integrating environmental protection requirements into the transport and energy sector are part of these aims.
  • Directive 2015/1480/EC:Establishes the rules concerning reference methods, data validation, and location sampling points for the assessment of ambient air quality
  • Directive 2010/75/EU:On industrial emissions
  • Directive/2284/EU: On the reduction of national emissions of certain atmospheric pollutants. This directive enforces the reduction of air pollutants such as SOx, NOx, and VOCs.
  • German Federal Emission Control Act – BImSchV 39th: The procedure for determining urban emission sources in Germany is defined in the 39th Ordinance of the Federal Immission Control Act (39th BImSchV). This federal law is based on the EU Directive 2008/50/EC.

Operating Models

Operating Model for an Air Quality Data Platform (BABLE,2021)

Business Model

Implementation Facts

Average Implementation Time: 0.1 - 1 years

Initial Investment Amount: less than 50,000 € for an urban district

Market Overview

According to a review by Business Wire, amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for Air Quality Monitoring Systems is estimated at 3.47 Billion EUR. Similarly, it is projected to reach a revised size of 4.63 Billion EUR by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 4.4%.

The global air quality monitoring market is divided into indoor and outdoor monitoring. Urban air quality systems are classified as outdoor monitoring systems. These can be further categoriszed into fixed, portable, dust, and particulate monitors and air quality monitoring stations. 


Current technological advances in air quality sensors significantly decreased both fixed and variable costs of UAQPsurban air quality platforms.  Fixed costs include the software, consisting of its communication API and web graphical user interface. Variable costs include calibration and maintenance, among others.

New technologies remove most of the need for local maintenance and calibration, moving these functions to a cloud service. Therefore, operating costs of these kinds of platforms include cloud-based computerized maintenance management systems.

Achieving citizen awareness and understanding of urban air quality systems is necessary for any UAQP implementation. Therefore, fixed costs must include a citizen portals and citizen participation campaigns.

Impacts of Air Pollution:

1) Global Warming

2) According to research co-authored by UCL, an estimated 1 in 5 deaths every year can be attributed to fossil fuel pollution and in 2018, approximate 8.7 million people died due to fossil fuel emissions alone. Figure from which 21.5 % is attributed to particulate matter. Figure 1 illustrates the death distribution as a cause of air pollution. 

Figure: Average outdoor PM2.5 pollution and total air pollution deaths by region in 2013 (World Bank, 2013)

3) In 2016, the WHO declared that 92 percent of the global population lived in areas where the pollution exceeded the world health organization’s air quality guidelines. 

4) The effects of air quality on people was estimated in 2013 to cost the global economy approximately  190 billion EUR (World Bank, 2013).

Causes of indoor air pollution:

As mentioned, anthropogenic sources are the main contributors to air pollutants. However, air pollution can also be caused by natural sources such as volcanic activity (releasing mainly SO2, CO2, and HF), sandstorms like the Saharan Dust, and ozone produced by the reaction of sunlight with oxygen. Nonetheless, anthropogenic sources are emitted with a much higher rate and density.

Anthropogenic sources can be classified into mobile, stationary and area sources. Mobile sources involve emissions produced by transportation, such as vehicles, maritime vessels and trains. Air pollutants in exhaust gases are generated by incomplete combustion of fuel. Carbon monoxide and unburned fuel are the main exhaust gases produced by gasoline engines.

Stationary sources are power plants, industrial activity and oil refineries. The effect of these is greater when located within the urban area of a city. The energy sources with the highest emission factor are lignite hard coal, which is the reason why there is a global effort to phase out coal as an energy source.

Finally, area sources can be appointed to agricultural and human activity. Agricultural emissions are usually underestimated; however, being that ammonia NH3 and methane CH4 are the main air pollutants, their impact is severe. Methane, for example, has a global warming potential 28 times higher than carbon dioxide.

Stakeholder Mapping

Stakeholder Map for an Air Quality Data Platform (BABLE, 2021)

Driving Factors

Government Initiatives

  • UK Clean Air Strategy: This strategy sets out the comprehensive action that is required from all parts across the UK government and society to meet environmental goals. The 2019 legislation outlines a strong and coherent framework for action to tackle air pollution.
  • European Green Deal: The EU Green Deal under its policy area “Eliminating Pollution” has reinforced among others its support to local authorities to achieve cleaner air for its citizens. It will also propose to strengthen provisions on monitoring, modelling, and air quality plans to help local authorities achieve cleaner air. The Commission will notably propose to revise air quality standards to align them more closely with the World Health Organization recommendations

Supporting Factors

  1. City wide deployment of sensors for representative sampling of air quality
  2. Prioritisation for sensor at locations with highest pollutant concentration
  3. Strong and uninterrupted connectivity between physical and digital assets
  4. Citizen approval for the installation of sensors across the city

Supporting Organisations

  • European Environment Agency: Experts of the EEA analyse the air quality data monitored across Europe. The processed data is fed into assessments to help decision-makers across Europe formulate better policies and rules to deal with air pollution problems.
  • European Space Agency: Is ESA is dedicated to the peaceful exploration and use of space for the benefit of humankind. ESA uses Earth observation satellites to monitor the Earth´s environmental status. Through the use of satellite data, ESA can draws thea bigger picture regarding the global change. Scientists and governments can use this data to understand, protect and manage our environment, safeguarding the Earth for future generations.
  • EU JRC: The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre is working to harmonise air and climate monitoring and modelling methodologies.  On this end, the JRC develops coherent greenhouse gas (GHG) and air pollutant emission inventories and projections, and tcarries out econometric trend analyses and cost estimates of emission control options. They are currently developing new standards on air quality sensors which will drive further innovation in UAQDPs.

Data and Standards

  • IEEE/ISO/IEC 21451: defines an object model with a network-neutral interface for connecting processors to communication networks, sensors, and actuators
  • ISO 37120:Sustainable cities and communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life: Defines and establishes methodologies for a set of indicators to steer and measure the performance of city services and quality of life
  • ISO/DIS 37156: Guidelines on data exchange and sharing for smart community infrastructures
  • TA Luft – German Technical Instructions on AQ Control: Regulates air quality requirements including emissions, ambient exposures, and their control methods. It is applicable to a number of pollutants from a range of stationary sources.

The creation of this Solution has been supported by EU funding

Use Cases

Sensor-based emission control system for port areas

Understand the contribution from Hamburg's port area as a source of air pollution. Together with AIS and weather information it should be possible to identify individual vessels as pollutants sources.

Mobile air pollution monitoring on buses

Urban air pollution is hyper-local. Deadly air pollution varies more than 8x within 200 meters, which is however not reflected on current air pollution maps. AirVeraCity provides people actionable air quality information by accurately measuring air pollution from a mobile platform.

Using mobile data to calculate air pollution

With increasing pollution becoming one of the biggest struggles of cities, they have to collect precise air quality data before initiating concrete measures. In this project Telefonica Next uses anonymised mobile network data to calculate air pollution.

Citizen Platform for Urban Air Quality

Breeze Technologies is creating a citizen-driven air quality sensing network in the district Rothenburgsort in Hamburg, Germany.

Big Data Visualization for Cologne

A Big Data Management Application, called Urban Cockpit has been implemented in the city of Cologne to provide a fast and easy overview of the data stored in the Urban Data Platform. It includes data from traffic management systems , energy providers and other such companies.

Cork Dashboard

Cork Dashboard provides citizens, public sector workers and companies with real-time information, time-series indicator data, and interactive maps about all aspects of the city and county. It enables users to gain detailed, up to date intelligence about the city that aids everyday decision making and fosters evidence-informed analysis.Data is pulled together from major sources -- including Cork City Council, Central Statistics Office, Eurostat, government departments and others, and includes links to a variety of existing external applications -- to provide interactive data visualisations. The underlying data is freely available, so others can undertake their own analysis and build their own applications and visualisations.

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