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
Restricted data access
Misidentification of emission sources
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 Model for an Air Quality Data Platform (BABLE,2021)
Average Implementation Time: 0.1 - 1 years
Initial Investment Amount: less than 50,000 € for an urban district
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 Map for an Air Quality Data Platform (BABLE, 2021)