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Breathe London pilot verifies small sensor air quality monitoring for smart cities

21-Apr-2021Breathe London | Data validity | Networks | Smart citiesUK

Breathe London pilot verifies small sensor air quality monitoring for smart cities

The Breathe London pilot, which used 100 AQMesh pods as part of a ground breaking city-wide network of air quality monitoring stations, proved that small sensor monitoring technology can be deployed successfully to give results comparable with those of reference equipment.

An independent audit of the quality assurances and control procedures for the Breathe London network, conducted by National Physics Laboratory (NPL), has been published and highlighted encouraging results for AQMesh performance.*

Overall, a mix of comparison methods was used to scale and quality control the whole network, including AQMesh co-location with reference – the gold pod method – and Professor Rod Jones’ network calibration scaling method. The gold pod method, as developed by AQMesh, featured extensively and provided R2 values over 0.9 for both NO2 and PM2.5. NPL found that “the activities conducted for the audit purpose and the associated findings revealed a strong adherence of the data processing and management to the Breathe London QA/QC requirements.”*

The initial phase of the Breathe London project aimed to map air pollution across the city at an unprecedented level of local resolution, in order to develop a revolutionary air quality monitoring template that could then be replicated in cities across the globe.

As part of the project the AQMesh pods were installed at different locations throughout London, monitoring key pollutants in near real-time, including nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5). The data collected by AQMesh was then published on a live interactive map showing current pollution levels across the city.

Data gathered during this pilot phase was successfully used to evaluate and inform public policies to mitigate sources of pollution, including monitoring the impact of the world’s first Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ). The network of AQMesh pods first established a baseline of pollution levels ahead of the ULEZ’s introduction, which began in central London on 8th April 2019. A combination of the data from AQMesh and two Google Street Cars, fitted with mobile monitoring equipment, was then used to assess the impact the ULEZ was having on ambient pollution levels. Initial analysis of the network data found that concentrations of NO2 had reduced by approximately 13% when compared with the same period in the previous year.

The network was also able to identify new pollution hotspots, such as a bus garage which had not been picked up by previous monitoring and modelling efforts, despite being a significant source of NO2.

Covid-19 confinement regulations in March 2020 gave new insight into London’s pollution, with the network’s AQMesh pods reporting significant NO2 reduction immediately after restrictions were introduced.

This successful pilot phase of Breathe London has also led to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) publishing a ‘blueprint’ for other cities planning a hyperlocal air quality monitoring network. The guide for aspiring smart cities highlights a range of considerations for choosing small sensor systems and deploying them as a city-wide network.

Using the blueprint, global cities could deploy networks of such systems to identify and quantify air pollution in order to develop, implement and assess mitigation strategies.


Breathe London air quality data now available in 3D

14-Sep-2020Breathe London | Networks | Smart citiesUK

Breathe London air quality data now available in 3D

The Breathe London project has this week released a 3D data visualisation story created by the Environmental Defense Fund Europe and Google.

Between Autumn 2018 and 2019, Google Street View cars were fitted with mobile sensors in order to drive around London and take readings of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels every second, to supplement the city-wide air quality monitoring network of 100 AQMesh pods.

Preliminary analysis of the pollution data gathered by the Google Street View cars found that, on average, levels of NO2 were 50% higher on major routes like Kennington Park Road, than quieter areas, like Alberta Street, which is only one street over.

The pollution data can now be explored on a 3D map of London via Google Earth.

NO2 is one of London’s most prevalent pollutants, and exposure to it can lead to harmful respiratory problems and impact on children’s lung development, which is why Breathe London was launched to give residents better information on local air pollution and its effect on human health.

The network of AQMesh pods and specially-equipped Google Street View cars was deployed in 2018 and a live map of pollution data across the city has been available to the public since July 2019.

So far, air pollution across the capital has been high. In November, it was reported that four out of every five AQMesh pods were recording  levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) that exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) annual guidelines. Unsurprisingly, during the national lockdown over April due to Covid-19 crisis, data from the project showed significant reduction of pollution levels across the city, including an average drop of 24% in NO2 across the entire Greater London AQMesh network.

AQMesh pods are small-sensor air quality monitoring systems offering real-time localised air quality information and data analysis. Varying sizes of networks of AQMesh pods are currently deployed worldwide in a number of smart city initiatives, including Breathe London in the UK.

New Breathe London data: Covid-19 confinement measures reduce London air pollution

07-May-2020Breathe London | Networks | Smart citiesUK

New Breathe London data: Covid-19 confinement measures reduce London air pollution

Breathe London preliminary analysis results reveal substantial NO2 pollution reductions after the UK government implemented restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid-19, particularly after social distancing was strongly encouraged on 16 March. Although further work is needed to determine the precise magnitude of reductions, provisional results have been shared on the Breathe London website.

Data from the Breathe London network shows levels of NO2 lowering from around 18th March across Greater London.

The displayed plot shows Breathe London network NO2 measurements during 1 March to 13 April 2020. Each trace is an individual AQMesh monitor in the network and the thick black line represents the network average. The grey line represents upwind background from a rural site outside of London; elevated background readings indicate pollution from abroad.

The full report from the Environmental Defense Fund gives details of when and where the greatest reductions were seen, plus an apparent association with traffic flow in London.

Detailed information on London’s air pollution is has been published on the Breathe London website since July 2019 as part of a collaborative project to paint a clearer picture of the city’s air quality. The readings are being provided by a network of AQMesh air quality monitoring pods, supplied and installed by Air Monitors, part of the ACOEM Group.

Technology underpins Breathe London SMART 50 award

24-Jan-2020Breathe London | Networks | Smart citiesUK

Technology underpins Breathe London SMART 50 award

The Breathe London project has been announced as the winner of a SMART 50 Award by Smart Cities Connect, within the Digital Transformation category. Created to better understand Londoners’ exposure to air pollution, Breathe London combines state-of-the-art technology with new data analytics, delivering real-time air quality data at a hyperlocal level in the city.

The monitoring technology employed in the project’s network of over 100 AQMesh pods and in two Google Street View Cars was supplied by ACOEM Air Monitors. Their Managing Director Felicity Sharp congratulated all of the partners in the Breathe London project. “This has been a tremendous collaborative effort, and I am delighted that our work is being recognised globally.

“The benefits of hyperlocal air quality data are already being realised in London and we hope that this can be recreated all over the world. The measurement of air pollution at an unprecedented scale and scope helps to identify pollution hotspots and informs the design and assessment of mitigation measures. It also provides local information that helps citizens take their own pollution reduction initiatives and make informed decisions such as where to walk, cycle, play and live.”

Amanda Billingsley, Managing Director of Environmental Instruments, the company that manufactured the AQMesh pods, added: “We hope that this recognition of the Breathe London will inspire other cities to set up a hyperlocal air quality monitoring network and take the opportunity to learn from the approach used by the Breathe London team.”

“London’s pollution problem is a health crisis, and we are proud to be part of this ambitious project shining a light on air quality,” said Elizabeth Fonseca, senior air quality manager at Environmental Defense Fund Europe, one of the project’s leading partners. “Lessons learned from Breathe London can help other cities trying to gain a better understanding of their pollution and protect public health.”

Monitoring data from the AQMesh pods is compared against data from London’s existing regulatory grade monitoring network. Both open-source and available for download, the stationary and mobile data are presented on an innovative platform to improve the public’s understanding of the varying presence of pollution across both time and space. See www.breathelondon.org.

By assessing and documenting the benefits of policy interventions, such as London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, Breathe London is lowering the barriers for other cities to undertake sophisticated monitoring and modelling, and informing smarter, targeted policy.

A representative from Environmental Defense Fund Europe will be presented with the Breathe London award at the 2020 Smart 50 Awards Gala, which takes place during April in Denver, Colorado.

Air pollution set to exceed limits at four out of five Breathe London sites

11-Nov-2019Breathe London | Networks | Smart cities | UrbanUK

Air pollution set to exceed limits at four out of five Breathe London sites

Last month Environmental Defense Fund Europe (EDFE) together with Mayor Sadiq Khan are releasing the second wave of data from Breathe London, an ambitious collaborative project to measure and map air pollution across the capital.

In addition to nitrogen dioxide (NO2) measurements from the network’s 100+ stationary AQMesh pods, the interactive map now includes preliminary data from the Google Street view car drives as well as current and average pollution data for fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

The new data confirms a concerning trend: Air pollution across the capital remains dangerously high. Four out of every five pods, including 90% of schools in the network, are on track to exceed World Health Organisation (WHO) annual guidelines for PM2.5, which is linked to a wide range of adverse health effects. Additionally, preliminary analysis of the mobile data shows NO2 is on average over 50% higher on major through roads than quieter, local roads.

The findings corroborate what EDFE has been saying for some time: Bold action at the national level is needed to cut pollution and create healthy, breathable cities.

Small airborne particles like dust, soot and drops of liquids can create PM. Most PM pollution formed in urban areas is from fossil fuels used in vehicles, construction equipment, heat & power (including wood burning) and commercial cooking.

PM2.5 is made up of tiny particles, which penetrate deeper into the lungs and are linked to lung disease, heart attacks, strokes, asthma and cancer, as well as shorter life spans. This pollution is particularly dangerous for young people – studies show that PM₂.₅ exposure can impair childhood lung development.

Breathe London’s data from the stationary network suggests that over 80% of the pods are likely to surpass WHO long-term guideline for PM2.5. In other words, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 pollution – at the vast majority of measuring sites – is at unsafe levels.

Moreover, although thresholds for PM have been set as general guidelines, there is little evidence to suggest a safe threshold exists below which there are no adverse health effects. Despite the recognition that PM is not safe at any level, it is currently legal in the UK to have pollution levels above what is recommended by the WHO.

Since autumn 2018, two specially-equipped Google Street View cars have been driving London’s streets to measure air pollution. Data from the drives undertaken so far are now visible on the map.

When comparing pollution readings from busy versus quieter streets, preliminary analysis reveals NO2 is on average over 50% higher on busy major through roads than on quieter, local roads*. Like PM, pollution from NO2 is linked to a variety of health impacts, including aggravating asthma and adversely impacting lung function in children.

Amanda Billingsley, Managing Director of Environmental Instruments, the company that manufactured the AQMesh pods, said: “This is a great example of what can be shown by data from a network of stationary small sensor air quality stations, delivering insights that help government and citizens to take effective action to transform pollution exposure levels.

“We have supplied networks of these small monitors in various countries, but it is great to see the potential impact of hyperlocal data – enabling the assessment of air pollution on a street by street basis – in our own capital city.”

The Breathe London data will also be available on the new Air Quality Data Commons (AQDC), an open-access data platform where people can share and use data from low-and medium-cost air quality sensors.

*Comparison assumes error is random. Additional analysis will be conducted after mobile data collection concludes at the end of October 2019.

A version of this article ran on Environmental Defense Fund Europe’s blog on 22 Oct, 2019.

London’s air quality goes online with AQMesh

24-Jul-2019Breathe London | Networks | Smart citiesUK

London’s air quality goes online with AQMesh

Detailed information on London’s (UK) air pollution is now being published on breathelondon.org, the website for a new collaborative project to paint a clearer picture of the city’s air quality. The readings are being provided by a network of AQMesh air quality monitoring pods supplied and installed by Air Monitors, part of the ACOEM Group.

The AQMesh pods are stationary – mostly mounted discreetly on lamp posts, but the pod data is being supplemented by measurements from instruments that have been installed by Air Monitors in two Google Street View Cars, as they travel the city’s streets.

Visitors to the Breathe London website will be able to view almost live data (within an hour) on nitrogen dioxide (NO2); one of the urban pollutants of greatest concern.

“This is a major step forward,” says Felicity Sharp, Air Monitors Managing Director. “The availability of highly localised air quality data is critical to the empowerment of citizens so that they can make choices that affect the quality of the air they breathe.

“In the past, air quality data has not been sufficiently local to allow most citizens to change the way they live their lives, but with the benefit of this website they will be able to choose where they want to walk, run, play, go to school or even buy a house.

“The data will also help to raise awareness and thereby encourage citizens to choose more environmentally friendly transport modes, particularly in pollution hotspots.

“Importantly, the data will also help national and local government to assess the effectiveness of air quality improvement measures. So this is great news for London, and we hope that it will be replicated in similar smart city projects around the world.”

Thames network to monitor air pollution from cruise ships

15-May-2019Breathe London | Ports | ShippingUK

Thames network to monitor air pollution from cruise ships

A new network of air pollution monitors has been installed to record emissions from cruise ships docking in Greenwich.

The £80,000 network has been funded by the Port of London Authority (PLA) and installed in partnership with Breathe London and the borough councils covering both Greenwich and Tower Hamlets.

The eight monitoring stations, all located close to the Greenwich Ship Tier landing stage, will capture data around the clock with the raw data available via the websites of both the PLA and Breathe London. A full analysis of the results will be published in early 2020.

The monitors have been supplied by Gloucestershire-based Air Monitors Limited.

Robin Mortimer, PLA chief executive said: ‘The data these monitors collect will give us a comprehensive understanding of the impact that the cruise ships have on air quality when they are in town.

‘It’s crucial to have this information so that we can address the concerns that we know are very strongly held by local residents.’

The monitors are part of the PLA’s Air Quality Strategy, published in May 2018, the first to be produced by a UK port. It includes 25-year targets to halve levels of Nitrogen Oxides and Particular Matter from river-related sources, whilst growing use of the river for carrying both freight and passengers.

Measures already implemented include a programme of retrofitting older vessels with the latest environmentally-friendly technology.

In January, the Department for Transport (DfT) published the first-ever maritime strategy, which details their vision of a zero-emission shipping industry by 2050.

In it, the government said they are considering introducing targets to drive down emissions of GHGs and other air pollutants from UK shipping as ‘the volume of global trade increases.’

They also say they hope to have a group of hydrogen or ammonia powered domestic vessels in operation and at least one major ‘smart port’ in the UK to have all ship-side activity zero emission (including non-road mobile machinery like cranes).

AQMesh to be used in new ‘hyperlocal’ air quality network for London

28-Jun-2018Breathe London | Networks | Smart citiesUK

AQMesh to be used in new ‘hyperlocal’ air quality network for London

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has launched a new, street-by-street monitoring system that will help to improve that capital’s air quality. From July 2018, and operating for a year, London will benefit from what is being described as the world’s most sophisticated air quality monitoring system. A consortium involving academia, an environmental charity, and commercial partners will install a network of 100 multiparameter AQMesh air quality monitors, whilst also operating two Google Street View cars that will map air pollution at an unprecedented level of detail.

Air Monitors Ltd will supply the AQMesh pods and manage data from all the sensor systems, so that air quality can be visualised and mapped in almost real-time. Working closely with the Greater London Authority, the project will be run by a team of air quality experts led by the charity Environmental Defense Fund Europe, in partnership with Air Monitors Ltd., Google Earth Outreach, Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants, University of Cambridge, National Physical Laboratory, King’s College London and the Environmental Defense Fund team in the United States.

Air Monitors Managing Director Jim Mills says: “It is difficult to underestimate the importance of this project – traditional monitoring networks provide essential information to check compliance against air quality standards, but this network will be ‘hyperlocal’ by which we mean that it will deliver street-level air quality data, which will be of tremendous interest to the public and also enable the effective assessment of air quality interventions.

“The Google Street View cars will take readings every 30 meters, helping us to find pollution hot-spots, so that AQMesh pods can be positioned in these locations. However, the pods are wireless and independently powered, so they can also be quickly and easily fixed to lamp posts in other sensitive locations such as schools.”

In addition to nitrogen dioxide and particulates, which are the pollutants of greatest concern, the pods will also measure ozone, nitric oxide, carbon dioxide, temperature, humidity and pressure. Data will sent, near real-time, to Air Monitors’ cloud-based data management system, which can be accessed by PC, tablet or smartphone by authorised partners, using an assigned login.

The monitoring data will provide baseline air quality data that will be essential in the assessment of mitigation measures, particularly in London’s expanding ultra-low emission zone. For example, on 20th June 2018, Sadiq Khan, announced the creation of the largest double-decker electric bus fleet in Europe, and the new monitoring network will enable the assessment of this initiative’s impact on air quality.

“This project will provide a step change in data collection and analysis that will enable London to evaluate the impact of both air quality and climate change policies and develop responsive interventions,” said Executive Director for Environmental Defense Fund Europe, Baroness Bryony Worthington.  “A clear output of the project will be a revolutionary air monitoring model and intervention approach that can be replicated cost-effectively across other UK cities and globally, with a focus on C40 cities.”

Mark Watts, C40, Executive Director said: “Almost every major city in the world is dealing with the threat of toxic air pollution, which is taking an incredible toll on the health of citizens, public finances, quality of life and contributing to climate change. London is already a world leader in responding to this global threat and with this initiative it will set a new global standard for how street level air quality monitoring can inform strategic policy making. Cities across the C40 network and around the world will be watching closely to understand how this monitoring can deliver cleaner air for their citizens.”


More about Breathe London:-




About Environmental Defense Fund
Environmental Defense Fund Europe is a registered charity (1164661) in England and Wales. A recently established affiliate of leading international non-profit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the organisation links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships to create transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. Connect with us at edf.org/europe, on Twitter and on our EDF VoicesEDF+Business and Energy Exchange blogs.

About Air Monitors Limited
Air Monitors is the UK’s leading air quality monitoring company, supplying and supporting instrumentation to central government, local authorities, research and industry. Air Monitors supplies and supports AQMesh in the UK and will also provide and maintain the equipment within the Google Street View cars in the project.

About AQMesh
AQMesh is a fully developed and independently evaluated small sensor outdoor air quality monitoring system, manufactured in the UK by Environmental Instruments Ltd. and in use worldwide since 2012.

About Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants
Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC) are world leading developers of air quality modelling software. Their renowned ADMS-Urban model will be used together with the sensor data to generate hyper-local air quality mapping both for nowcasts and forecasts, and for policy studies.

About Google Earth Outreach
Google Earth Outreach is a program from Google designed specifically to help non-profit and public benefit organisations around the world leverage the power of Google Maps and Cloud technology to help address the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems.

About the National Physical Laboratory (NPL)
NPL is the UK’s National Measurement Institute, providing the measurement capability that underpins the UK’s prosperity and quality of life. Every day our science, engineering and technology makes a difference to some of the biggest national and international challenges, including addressing air quality issues. http://www.npl.co.uk/about/what-is-npl/

About University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry
The University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry is a world leading research and teaching institution. At Cambridge, the Centre for Atmospheric Science has played a primary role in the development of low-cost sensors for air quality monitoring and in the development of techniques for analysing and interpreting measurements from sensor networks.

About the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group
Around the world, C40 Cities connects 96 of the world’s greatest cities to take bold climate action, leading the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future. Representing 700+ million citizens and one quarter of the global economy, mayors of the C40 cities are committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level, as well as to cleaning the air we breathe. The current chair of C40 is Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo; and three-term Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg serves as President of the Board. C40’s work is made possible by our three strategic funders: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), and Realdania.