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How smart cities can be a breath of fresh air for tackling pollution

- November 9, 2017 5:24 pm

Rarely a day seems to go by without another press story about the impact of air quality on our health or yet another report about the dangers of air pollution to the environment.

It’s a hot topic around the globe and for understandable reasons; a recent commission by the Lancet stated that one in six premature deaths across the globe are linked to air pollution. That’s a staggering 9 million deaths per year, with children particularly vulnerable, along with older people. Pollution in general is a bigger killer than tobacco smoking, AIDS, malaria, TB, malnutrition, road accidents, war, and murder, which is a sobering thought.

Closer to home

For our densely populated little island, air quality is a very serious issue, with around 8% deaths in the UK linked to pollution. That equates to 50,000 people each year, and disappointingly, our air quality levels are among the poorest in the western world. Currently ranked 55th out of 188 countries, this puts us behind the US and most of our European neighbours.

Measure for measure

It’s not surprising that many people distrust official air quality figures and are monitoring air quality for themselves, as governments and other world leaders are perceived as ignoring the issues and/or failing to take action.

And while there are signs of progress – new charges for driving the most polluting cars into London for example – they can sometimes feel piecemeal and their potential benefits not fully explored. In order to understand the benefits that could be derived from any initiative, it’s vital have a baseline to work from. There are many possible solutions – careful town planning could for example, hold the key to improving both outdoor and indoor air quality. So could reducing congestion, implementing smart parking solutions, developing optimised vehicle route planning and establishing clean air zones, but in order to really make progress, their effects need to be carefully measured and monitored.

It is for all of these reasons that I’m delighted to be involved in our agreement with Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to help deliver its ambitious and wide ranging digital strategy, which includes air quality monitoring, using the Cisco® Kinetic for Cities platform to assess current levels of air pollution and assess where improvements can be made.

Of course, the project covers far more than air quality – public safety, energy consumption and traffic management are just a few examples. And importantly, Southend-on-Sea is proving that smart cities technology should not be confined to big cities, and is just as important to smaller communities – even coastal areas, where we tend to assume air quality offers less cause for concern.

A healthier world

Most of us will have friends or loved ones who suffer from asthma or other chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, in many cases either caused or perpetuated by the environment. Hopefully, Southend-on-Sea and similar initiatives will help create a healthier environment with less pollution, where our children and other future generations can thrive.

Find out more about our work with Southend-on-Sea or Cisco® Kinetic for Cities by visiting our local government webpage – and feel free to contact the Cisco smart cities team directly for more information.

After all, every town, village and city deserves the opportunity to create a healthier environment for its community.

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