Air pollution is one of the most serious problems in all cities – including Bristol. Exposure to poor air quality can cause long-term and short-term health effects, such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organization has counted that approximately 4.2 million people die prematurely every year because of exposure to polluted urban environments.
One of the major causes of urban pollution is fuel combustion from motor vehicles (e.g. cars and heavy-duty vehicles). This process produces nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which can cause inflammation of the airways. Concentrations of NO2, measured over a year, must not be more than 40 μg/m3 (microgrammes per metre cubed). Yet, a large part of Bristol is affected by an excess of NO2 compared to the UK and EU standards, in particular in the central area of Bristol where approximately 100,000 people live and through which many more walk and cycle.
Bristol has developed a mobile-friendly website that offers users a tool to help them avoid polluted areas. This is done by suggesting a range of walking routes of different lengths and pollution levels. Armed with this information, users can decide whether to take a lower pollution option, even if it is longer (though this will not always be the case). Choosing a less polluted route rather than their usual route, users will decrease their exposure to pollution with a potential for considerable impact on their health.
Using the web-app, users can also monitor the air quality levels for different sites in Bristol and get real-time analytics. This, we expect, will raise awareness of pollution and incentivise users to take further actions to tackle the poor air quality problem in Bristol.
The app structure is shown in the figure above – air quality data is gathered in Bristol and submitted to the the Big Clout Data Lake – the mobile App uses this data to determine the best route – in conjunction with an AI based recommendation engine.
Route recommendation app
A user centric mobile app has been developed by Bristol that allows users to specify their start and end points. Several routes are generated, and returned to the user’s phone to allow them choose the most appropriate for their needs.
For each route, data on the pollution levels are also generated so that users can make informed decisions on their route
Overall the app was well received by the general public – city officials were pleased with its usage and with the ability to communicate with citizens some of the complexities of pollution monitoring and the situation in the city of Bristol.