Nick Sacke, head of IoT and product, Comms365

‘Dirty air’ has become a hot topic within the technology industry over recent years, especially as innovative technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to plant its roots. And interest is only going to grow as health and safety concerns from the wider population and media attention ramps up. A recent study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that more than 40 towns and cities in the UK are at or have exceeded air pollution limits. So the question is, how can technology help?

The good news is that these high pollution levels are gradually starting to fall, partly thanks to technology solutions such as IoT enabling ‘Smart Cities’. There is no doubt that a good number of cities that have rolled out smart projects are already realising tangible benefits, especially when it comes to pollution levels. India’s 100 Smart Cities’ goal is a great example of where the technology has been rolled out widely and quickly with cities like Chennai successfully using smart, integrated IoT solutions to tackle traffic congestion issues. So why is the UK lagging so far behind?

Efforts towards lowering air pollution levels in the UK are starting to show, such as the IoT initiatives that have been deployed in Oxford and Cambridge. IoT sensors have been placed on buildings exterior to monitor air pollution levels where, dependent on readings, pedestrian or motor traffic can be redirected if a certain area is above or exceeds the limit. However, it’s clear that the UK has a way to go in order to effectively tackle dirty air levels especially considering the European commission has recently launched legal proceedings against the British government for repeatedly breaching EU air pollution rules.

Identifying the right pain points is crucial, before addressing them in the best way possible. Sustainability issues are an obvious starting point as they offer the opportunity not only to benefit the environment, but with lighting alone making up 19% of the world's total electricity consumption for example, offer significant cost saving opportunities.

An example of success in this field is Yokohama in Japan, which has been dubbed a Smart City through its energy program. Suffering from a stark rise in population that caused construction and pollution increases, with collaboration from the city government, private sector, citizens and household brand names, a pilot was rolled out in just 4,000 homes and resulted in a 20% decrease in power consumption. This Smart Project started with innovation born from necessity, but also took on board government and citizen interests and provided a valuable, measurable, commercial outcome.

So, it’s clear the UK is still lagging behind when it comes to innovative IoT projects but they’re on the rise, and it’s with the help of technology vendors in conjunction with the government and the wider population that these projects will come to fruition to address the problem of air pollution in the UK.