Air quality is a global problem needing local solutions

Over 2.1 billion people worldwide, or 53% of the world population, live in one of the 1022 urban areas around the world that have more than half a million inhabitants.

All this concentrated economic activity generates a burden on our environment, which is something that our global communities are trying to address, as seen in hard-won agreements such as the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and the Paris climate agreement in 2016. But we as peoples need to become more involved ourselves.

In most of our global communities we have secured safety for basic needs such as food, water and shelter. But we are not always concerned enough about our most common shared resource, the air we breathe. We are usually only concerned when we can smell the air, or we can clearly see pollution as smog.  Unfortunately, many pollutants cannot easily be seen nor smelled, but can still have adverse effects on our health.

Worldwide, Air quality is responsible for 7 million premature deaths annually (WHO, 2014) and 5.4% of all deaths are attributed to ambient air pollution worldwide (WHO, 2012). Outdoor air pollution can cause various fatal diseases, such as lung cancer, ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and acute lower respiratory infections in children.

Naturally, governments are concerned with these types of issues. And for that reason they do measure the air quality and hopefully adjust their policies to help improve the air quality. Many even provide this information as Open Data.

Local governments usually do deploy sensors, but only enough for themselves to make informed decision. Unfortunately, the amount of sensors deployed are too few and too sparsely distributed to allow citizens to make informed decisions in their daily lives. Questions such as: “Where to be active outdoor?” or “How to travel within the city?” or “Where to live?”; all for minimising exposure to poor air quality, are generally impossible to answer with just the current sensor deployments within a city. For instance, the air quality in New Delhi, India is one of the worst around the world and they only have 16 sensors deployed in 1.484 km2 area. This means a single sensor covers an area of 93 km2 with 1.049.246 people living in that area.

UrbanZee aims to empower people to make more informed daily decisions concerning Air-quality with its AeroZee product. Instead of using expensive stationary sensors, we will deploy lower cost sensors on public transportation or any other mobile platform that crosses a whole city.  This solution is not only more cost-effective, but also allows to measure Air quality in many residential areas where people live and are active outdoor.

Air pollution is a global problem with some of the pollutants leading to global warming, but requires local solutions as that is where pollution comes from. Given the facts of the past many decades, we clearly cannot rely solely on governments to solve this problem. It is therefore crucial for us all to be more informed about the Air quality around us.

Let’s improve our urban environments, together!