Associate feature: Exploring new ways to keep emissions under control

Written by Manish Jethwa, chief product and technology officer at Yotta on 19 November 2018 in Comment

Manish Jethwa, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Yotta, on how technology could help reduce air pollution in Scotland's cities

Glasgow city centre - image credit: Yotta

The Scottish Government is actively working with councils to introduce low emission zones (LEZs) in Scotland’s four largest cities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. The aim is to reduce emissions and improve air quality across Scotland, contributing to national and local environmental, health and economic objectives.

Scotland’s first LEZ is scheduled to come into effect in Glasgow city centre on 31 December 2018. When it is fully implemented by the end of 2022, all vehicles entering the zone will have to meet specified emission standards. That is one key way to work towards improving air quality and reducing pollution but what else can the authorities across the designated Scottish cities do to help achieve these goals?

New technology that connects different infrastructure assets together could play a major role. The latest advances in the Internet of Things (IoT) enable cities to connect to infrastructure assets, including bridges, drainage systems, and street lights to analyse their interactions and monitor and evaluate their performance. This kind of approach can act as the foundation for local authorities’ development of smart cities and a focus on how low emissions can become an important component of this.

Councils and local authorities across Scotland have already implemented networks of automatic monitoring stations to capture relevant data from various points across a given area and use it to assess air quality. Scottish smart cities like Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow have infrastructures in place that are well suited to expanding this kind of a pollution monitoring approach. Sensors can be installed on street lights, above the reach of vandals, but at a level low enough to measure the air people breathe.

The data collected can be turned into practical intelligence, enabling councils to monitor pollution levels in central zones and then fine-tune their strategy around road building; transport planning, or pedestrianisation, for example, both to minimise emissions and reduce the impact on the broader public. Power and communication can be delivered through the street infrastructure and the wider smart city network.

These Scottish cities could also look to cut emissions further by reducing the number of traffic hotspots in areas they control. That means highlighting where traffic is heaviest. Pollution typically congregates in those areas where there is most congestion. The UK is currently a very congested nation. Back in 2016, analytics company, Inrix monitored traffic on every road in 123 cities, including London, Cardiff, Hamburg and Paris. Its analysis revealed more than 20,300 so-called "traffic hotspots" in UK cities - well over double the number in Germany and twice that of France.

Pinpointing the main congestion points is key for the city authorities. That knowledge allows them to start to potentially mitigate the problem by introducing new approaches to traffic signalling, for instance, or by enhancing communication with other road users through better signposting.

Dynamic traffic forecasting is another fast-emerging technology that Scottish cities could leverage. The approach connects assets and devices to improve mobility across cities, thereby helping both to reduce the time vehicles are on the road and to minimise emissions. Sensors at parking spots could collect real-time data on parking availability and can be transmitted across networks, linking with end-user and local authority devices. Traffic control cameras could be connected to the transport authority in real time, enabling them to potentially increase the frequency and duration of green lights depending on road conditions. 

It’s yet another approach that Scottish cities could potentially adopt to keep emission and pollution levels to a minimum over the coming years, helping them, in turn, to achieve cleaner air and meet their long-term health, environmental and economic goals. 

At Yotta, we are helping meet these goals by providing Alloy, our Connected Asset Management platform which was built specifically to help address the issue of managing the vast quantities of data from operational activities and sensor-based devices. This data can then be analysed in Alloy to identify patterns of behaviour or trends and make sure cities can meet their strategic goals such as pollution levels.

Manish Jethwa is Chief Product and Technology Officer at Yotta 

This piece was sponsored by Yotta

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