Real-time air quality monitoring and traffic management
C-Tech Innovation is leading an urban air quality project with partners Cheshire West and Chester Council and the University of Chester, funded by Innovate UK. This project is titled InterCityAir and aims to test the feasibility of developing an integrated data platform for Chester city centre to monitor and ameliorate poor air quality in real time.
Clean air was declared a basic human right by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2000. Maintaining clean air in urban environments is a well-known and high profile challenge. The health impact of regular exposure to polluted air has been widely studied and quantified in both the vulnerable people in society as well as the healthy. The WHO reported approximately 7 million premature deaths caused by air pollution in 2012 (WHO 2014), of those premature deaths 2.6 million were related to outdoor air pollution. A 2010 report by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) found that air pollution in 2008 was responsible for about 29,000 deaths in the UK. It has been estimated that there are an annual 5,000-6,000 premature deaths in the UK attributable to transport pollution. The total monetised life lost due to air pollution in the UK has been estimated at £6-62 bn/year, or 0.4-3.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
InterCityAir started in September 2015. The focus will be on linking a novel air quality network of low cost wireless sensors with the traffic management control within Chester city centre to alleviate air pollution “hot spots” caused by queuing traffic. The sensor network proposed will be scalable to ultimately provide higher resolution air quality data for the Chester area. The air quality data will be fed into the city’s traffic management and control system to inform traffic signalling when and where pollution build-ups are occuring. The signal sequences could then be altered to improve flow and minimise queuing in the polluted location.
InterCityAir will offer an innovative development in the monitoring and geographic data resolution of city wide air quality. Key stakeholders in the urban system will have new and improved levels of information about the local environment and the impact of planning policy on the health of the population. In bringing together the Cheshire West and Chester Council, the University of Chester and local SME C-Tech Innovation, the InterCityAir project will ensure innovation that reflects the needs and interests of parties that would otherwise not be aligned.
The UK currently faces a £300 million fine owing to its failure to meet EU air quality targets by 2010. Only 5 out of the 43 regions of the UK met the EU nitrogen dioxide (NO2) guidance, with 16 regions regularly exceeding them. The latest data from DEFRA indicates that it will take between 6-17 years for the remaining regions to comply with the regulations (DEFRA 2014). Clearly measures have to be taken to address this issue and avoid further fines. Implementation of the InterCityAir technology would help mitigate air quality issues in the urban areas of these regions. C-Tech will manufacture the InterCityAir units, with a view to sell them, as a network, to local authorities needing to meet their regional air quality targets.
Image credit: Gareth Williams
Co-funded by Innovate UK.