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The Role of Local Authorities in Creating Cleaner, Safer & Smarter Cities

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

The Role of Local Authorities Under Air Quality Management

When considering air pollution in towns and cities, the role of Local Authorities is one of significant importance. Harmful gases and pollutants in the air impact people all around the world, and it’s often the job of the authorities to ensure individuals are breathing clean air as some of the major pollutants, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM2.5), still pose threats to public health.

The Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) legislation means the UK’s authorities have a responsibility to review air quality in their towns and cities. In areas identified as exceeding national air quality guidelines, measures must be put in place to effectively lower emissions, referred to as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). These must also be reported in the Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) to address and identify ways to tackle areas experiencing such issues.

quote from public health england

Without action, the health and social care costs of air pollution for diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, COPD, diabetes and lung cancer could reach £18.6 billion by 2035. This means that around 2.5 million new cases of air pollution related diseases could occur without intervention.

Using Smart Technology to Implement Smart Cities

With air quality guidelines and LAQM legislation in place, it’s vital for pollution strategies to be put into effect, and one of the ways this can be done is through the integration of smart technology. Smart technology brings inanimate objects to life through the mixing of artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data analysis and can be split into three different types: Smart Connected Devices, Smart Devices and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. “Smart” refers to self-monitoring, analysis and reporting technology, all of which can be used for an array of different areas to promote and introduce sustainability, and futuristic plans.

Some examples of Smart Technology used in cities include smart energy meters being built into homes to provide insight into how much energy is used throughout housing, or London’s introduction of smart parking, allowing drivers to efficiently locate parking spaces to reduce waiting time for an open spot, subsequently lowering traffic build up. In New York, streetlights use LED technology in combination with real time data to adjust the brightness of lights in accordance with the time of day, saving energy consumption.

raining in seattle

Another great example of Smart Technology used throughout a city is that of Seattle. In partnership with the University of Washington, they have introduced ‘RainWatch’ which monitors precipitation in real time so that warnings can be communicated to residents during times of potential flooding, keeping those living in the area and its infrastructure safe.

Using Smart Technology along with integrated data about towns and cities means the likes of environment, transport, sustainability, and planning leaders within local authorities gain detailed insight into how their cities and towns behave. Using this data, those involved can access information about how individuals move, their transport decisions, to weather and pollution, providing a holistic view into areas of interest, aiding decisions towards smarter, safer, and more sustainable communities.

smart cities

Identifying Air Quality Levels with Pollution Sensors & Modelling

Air quality is one of the areas which can be improved through the integration of Smart Technology, like Intelligent Transport Systems, and there are many ways that Local Authorities can collate vital information about their town or cities’ air pollution. One way is using small form air quality sensors like the Zephyr®, which takes real-time pollution measurements for NO, NO2, O3, CO, CO2, TVOC, H2S, SO2, PM2.5, PM10, temperature, pressure and humidity every 10 seconds and also has the ability to connect third party communications to measure wider environmental factors such as noise and weather.

We also recently announced that Zephyr® sensors have been made available with 4G and 5G technologies, LTE-Cat M1 and NB-IoT, making for a globally accessible sensor that has the capability to be deployed worldwide as part of large scale, city wide IoT initiatives, helping Local Authorities work towards smarter, connected cities.

Measured data is ready to view via the MyAir® web app or can be easily integrated with existing systems or other system and infrastructure development programmes via our comprehensive API for smarter and connected cities. Making use of the smart technology available as part of the Zephyr® subscription helps to collate important information to gain a complete understanding into pollution levels, sources, hotspot locations and effective ways these can be managed, much like our work on project ACCRA with Leeds City Council.

project accra

ACCRA (Autonomous and Connected Vehicles for CleaneR Air) captured real-time air quality measurements from a Zephyr® network deployed around Leeds City Centre, which fed into an air quality model to regulate vehicle emissions. Using combined smart technology including air quality sensors and modelling along with geofencing, and 7.5 Tonne Range Electric Vehicles (REEV), this meant we were able to programme hybrid vehicles to automatically switch to zero-emission mode in designated control areas with high levels of air pollution and traffic.

In addition to identifying pollution concentrations at local levels using sensors, Local Authorities can identify pollution and gain insight using the MappAir® global air quality model. Using a combination of data inputs including weather, traffic, satellite and Zephyr® data, MappAir® provides visualisations of how air pollution behaves on a global scale, right down to a street corner. With use of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), MappAir® provides visual insight into how pollution flows and disperses around buildings and urban canyons on city-wide scale. It can also be used to forecast how air quality will look up to 3-days in advance and look at historic emissions to help understand pollution trends.

Informing Smart City Initiatives with Air Quality Data

One example of a smart city initiative we worked on is our work with Coventry City Council, who use a network of Zephyr® sensors deployed around the city to collect real-time air pollution measurements. These measurements were sent by our comprehensive API into the Stratos traffic management system and when pollution levels were breached, an automatic trigger was sent to Variable Messaging Signs (VMS) around the City informing motorists and encouraging them to take alternative routes; easing pressures at traffic and pollution hotspots. The integration of Zephyr® data plays a part in this smart city initiative to reduce NO2 concentrations in Coventry by dynamically managing traffic and lowering emissions, keeping motorists and individuals at bay from adverse impacts of harmful air quality levels.

project NEVFMA

We also work with Oxfordshire County Council, Siemens Mobility and Aimsun on the Network Emissions/Vehicles Flow Management Adjustment (NEVFMA) project, which uses a network of 18 Zephyr® air quality sensors in combination with MappAir® data and Aimsun’s traffic modelling to identify informed transport based strategies that improve traffic flow and reduce emissions. The model also provides users with scenario planning, providing an understanding into how a range of strategies work to reduce emissions. Taking action to reduce emissions not only lowers the number of pollutants in the air, but also reduces the risks of adding to or creating hotspot areas and lowers exposure experienced by nearby cyclists and pedestrians.

Lastly, we worked alongside the City of Wolverhampton Council on the Live Visualisation of Emissions – Towards Informed Avoidance of Pollution Hotspots (LiVETAP) project to create an air quality services for the council and members of the public. By deploying 15 sensors to provide real-time Zephyr® measurements and utilising MappAir® modelling data, the app and web portal help to guide decisions about traffic management and routing in pollution environments using air quality forecasts. Combined data also helps to assist members of the public with making decisions about methods of travel to reduce air pollution levels and improve public health.

Want to find out how we can help your Local Authority identify Smart City initiatives towards a more sustainable and safer environment?

Get in touch with us by calling us on +44 (0)116 296 7460 or visiting! We have a dedicated air quality team who are happy to talk through your project and requirements.

We’re also offering a FREE demo of the MyAir® technology, available for a limited time only! Contact us for more information.



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