How to Use Smart City Tools to Help Address Air Quality

How to Use Smart City Tools to Help Address Air Quality

By: Bob Dixon Head of Sustainability Siemens Corp


In the last few years, scientists have developed a greater understanding of the negative impacts of poor air quality, particularly in our urbanized areas. The latest research shows that air pollution is more damaging to our health than previously thought - and prolonged exposure to dirty air actually has a significant impact on our cognitive abilities, especially in older men. As the headlines have declared: Dirty air is making us dumber.

But, at the same time, we’ve watched game-changing advances in sensor technology and the rise of the Internet of Things. In cities, the shorthand for using information and communication technologies to enhance the quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities has become known as the smart cities phenomenon.

Now, it seems, urban areas striving to become “smart cities” may also be the key to fixing the dirty air problem that’s making us dumber.

Just this month, the City of Orlando announced a five-year plan to begin installing air quality sensors, which can be mounted on light poles, and would allow the city to measure and monitor pollution. 

Orlando joins Chicago, Seattle and Portland, all of which have launched air quality sensor pilot programs. Chicago’s project began this year as part of its Array of Things (AoT) connected urban sensor program. The city currently has 100 devices installed and an additional 100 will be operational by year’s end, on the way to the ultimate goal of 500. In all of these cities, staff and researchers want to get an idea of not just what is in the air, but specifically where the pollutants occur in the highest concentrations so that they can take steps to fix the problems.

At Siemens, we’re committed to partnering with cities to deploy this potentially life-saving technology, to analyze the data that’s generated and, ultimately, to help those cities implement proven strategies to reduce air pollution. 

Earlier this year, our company presented the City Air Management (CyAM) tool at the World Cities Summit in Singapore. CyAM is a cloud-based software suite with a dashboard that displays real-time information on the air quality detected by sensors across a city and predicts values for the upcoming three to five days. These air-quality forecasts are prepared with the aid of algorithms that tap into an artificial neural network and draw on historical and current data on air quality and weather.


Armed with this kind of unique data, leaders can then choose to implement all kinds of short and long-term actions. For example, in particularly challenging corridors, they could allow transit rides for free to incentivize mass transit use, divert truck traffic to different areas, or create incentives for businesses to reduce their energy use. Long-term, this data can also provide a fully-informed backdrop from which leaders could implement policies. It can help expedite the expansion of electric vehicle use, implement more intelligent traffic management systems, produce cleaner grid electricity and expand the use of solar energy, to name a few. 

Siemens believes this work is vitally important, first and foremost, because it benefits the health and wellness of our employees. Our company has more than 50,000 U.S. employees who live, work, play and raise their families in communities across the United States.

But our commitment to clean air is also a global one. You see, we don’t just believe we can make a difference in combatting air pollution. We believe it’s our moral imperative to do so, that technology is a tool to advance the common good. That belief is the foundation of our Business to Society ideal that’s a part of everything we do.

We applaud cities for their leadership in this critical area and look forward to working with them as we endeavor to find solutions to air pollution and all of the challenges that confront our modern society.


Published On: September 26th, 2018