Imperial College London: Digital screens to help monitor London’s air quality


A new pilot study integrates air quality sensors into digital advertising displays in London.

Imperial’s Environmental Research Group (ERG) has partnered with media and infrastructure company Clear Channel to pilot a new initiative integrating Breathe London air quality sensors into digital advertising displays in the borough of Barking and Dagenham.

Breathe London is a network developed by the ERG, funded by the Mayor of London and Bloomberg Philanthropies, to provide real-time, hyperlocal air quality data to Londoners, via the Breathe London website.

Clear Channel’s Product Development team, working closely with the ERG through Imperial Projects, sensor manufacturer Clarity Movement and digital display partner Amscreen, have created a scalable, standardised solution to allow quick and easy rollout of air quality sensors across its national network of digital advertising displays.

Public health impact
The three pilot displays in Barking & Dagenham – specifically chosen for their high-footfall, where air pollution is most likely to be impacting the public – are now monitoring levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (PM2.5), known for their negative impact on respiratory health.

Data from the sites in Barking and Dagenham is being transmitted to Breathe London, which also collects data from around 300 similar small sensors across London.

Unique analysis is conducted by the scientists at Imperial, combining Breathe London and reference grade monitor data, ensuring accurate information on air quality for Londoners.

Andrew Grieve, Senior Air Quality Analyst, one of the scientists monitoring and analysing the data, says, “Air pollution is the biggest environmental risk to health in the UK and globally. The World Health Organisation recently updated their guidelines, setting much lower targets, showing we have further to go to protect public health.

“Only by monitoring air quality can we see if we are heading in the right direction, so we are hugely excited by this unique partnership between business, academia and local government to expand the Breathe London network.”

Scalable network
Breathe London aims to create a comprehensive and scalable air quality sensor network for London’s communities; making air quality data easily accessible and empowering Londoners with evidence to inform the change they want to see. Organisations wishing to purchase a sensor can now do so via the Breathe London website.

Neil Chapman, Clear Channel’s Product Development Director says, “Out of Home advertising most often exists in densely populated areas, where air quality data is needed most and can bring most benefit to the public.”

“This pilot demonstrates how easy and affordable it can be for local authorities and existing air quality networks to use our street furniture to measure the air pollution in problem areas, and inform the right interventions to improve local air quality.”

Councillor Margaret Mullane, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Community Safety said, “We’re determined to improve the quality of air in Barking and Dagenham to ensure our residents are living in a healthy environment. Launching our Air Quality Action Plan, to planting thousands of new trees in the borough to encouraging residents to turn their engines off when stationary are just some of the ways we’re trying to do this.

“I am pleased to see that we’re also introducing further air quality sensors, so we can really understand the issue in hot spot areas and work out what else needs to be done.”

Data collected from the new sensors will be used by council officers at London Borough of Barking and Dagenham to improve their understanding of air pollution within the borough and monitor changes.

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