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

Updated: Mar 18

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

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