Keeping up with the latest news in the fields of air and noise pollution is a never-ending task. Not least because the technology sector is now taking an increasing interest in its potential role in tackling one of the most pressing issues that our cities face.
Most days, like many commuters, I cycle to the station (though occasionally I walk). Working in Central London means that trying to avoid streets with high levels of air pollution is always a challenge. That’s why i was very happy when a colleague recommended the CARAMEL app. Developed by EarthSense, this app allows people who are walking and cycling to plot journeys on routes that are least affected by air pollution. What an ideal solution for me!
Many of us know tools such as that provided by the BBC that show real time levels of air pollution in your area. These are great for those with the willingness, not to mention the ability, to check them before they head out.
But this got me thinking. Whilst welcome, these tools are slightly frustrating. They are well-intentioned, but they reflect a reaction to hazards that is to move the victims out of the way as opposed to fixing the core issue. Many more people are choosing to walk and cycle in our cities not just to save money and to get fit, but to actually make a difference to the cities in which they live.
For many of these trips, the most convenient route is usually the busiest. Walking around where we are based in London, for instance, usually means walking along or crossing a busy main road where there are high levels of air pollution. You make the sustainable choice – the last thing you want is to suffer the effects of the choices of others. When that means coughing on exhaust fumes or rubbing your eyes due to the particulate matter, it can be unpleasant.
New technologies are fantastic and can do great things very quickly, but if we are not careful this can result in quick, unsustainable solutions being the only solutions. New technology solutions should be focussing on tackling pollution issues at source, lest we get into a position whereby all the technology sector does is advise people to stay at home when the air pollution is bad. A useful service for now does not necessarily mean a suitable fix for the longer term.
Though that is not impossible.
We should be helping those who do something to make their cities better to feel valued, and rewarded for doing so. At EMSOL, we can do that by changing the behaviour of drivers and fleet operators through a data-led approach to monitoring emissions. That way, we are doing our little bit to help those who are doing their little bit, so that people don’t have to go out of their way to avoid air pollution.
Our network of sensor technology, combined with our analytics platform, does this by encouraging behaviour change at source of the pollution. These changes, like engine idling, may seem minor. But collectively these minor changes add up, and any reduction in air pollution levels is a welcome thing.
To paraphrase a famous saying, never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed people to change the air quality of our world, and our cities. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.