New models for assessing air pollution from vehicles in cities

May 17th, 2017 by

A new study conducted in Nuremberg, Germany, by big data company Teralytics, Telefonica NEXT, and sustainability solution provider South Pole Group has shown how analysing mobile network data can be used as an effective way to estimate the level of carbon emissions and air pollution in cities at low cost.

Every call, text, or moment spent browsing the internet generates valuable raw data that can be used to understand human mobility patterns. Teralytics used this type of mobile communication data supplied by Telefonica to work out how frequently different transport modes – cars, trains, and so on – are used. By extrapolating this information and using it in conjunction with knowledge of the level of emissions of each of these forms of transport, an accurate estimate of the amount of GHG emissions and air pollution could be calculated.

77% Accuracy

The astounding thing is that the predictions about the concentration of air pollutants made by Teralytics in this Nuremberg study were accurate up to a 77% level. When you consider the more cost-effective nature of utilising big data in this way versus the expense of installing and operating measuring stations, it has big implications on a worldwide scale. This methodology could be used to better analyse and understand environmental issues such as pollution and air quality in cities across the globe.

Georg Polzer, CEO of Teralytics, understands how big data can be used to help move the world forward in positive ways.

“While our contemporary urban lifestyles result in the generation of harmful greenhouse gasses, it also generates large amounts of behavioural data. Our mission at Teralytics is to use this data for the benefit of society,” he explains.

“Our findings from Nuremberg showed that this data can be used to give city planners insights into how human mobility contributes to pollution. This is a vital part to efficiently design and implement clean air and low carbon strategies. We are looking forward to further exploring this opportunity.”

A Big Data Future

And further exploration is not far away. With the resounding success of the pilot study still ringing in their ears, the consortium was able to secure financial backing from the Climate KIC’s Low Carbon City Lab (LoCal) initiative. The support provided will enable the research team to refine their methodology to take more factors into account, such as airports, the influence of traffic jams, large-scale events, and more.

Maximilian Groth, who is responsible for Business Development & Partnerships at Teralytics, believes that this is just the beginning. “We are confident that we will soon be able to scale this product to cities worldwide to support urban planners in making our air cleaner and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement at the lowest possible cost.” The future’s looking bright and clear.