National Pollution Day: Internet of Things can help reduce pollution – Firstpost

December 2, 2016 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Uncategorized

By Muqbil Ahmar

Air pollution is a burning topic these days after Delhi smog came as a reality check. A WHO survey of over 1,600 cities ranked the national capital as the most polluted. As Delhi faced its worst spell of smog in two decades, the air quality dipped to hazardous levels. Air pollution was 40 times higher than the permissible safety limits set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and approximately 15 times higher than the Indian standards. Schools were closed, construction work stopped, and a coal-fired power plant near Delhi was closed. Experts cried hoarse on TV shows. The judiciary led by the Supreme Court, civil society groups, and the general public have generated unprecedented pressure on the government to act. Although short-term measures have been taken, they would not serve over the longer term.

IoT and enabled sensors can help monitor and predict pollution
One of the ways to combat the ever-increasing pollution over the long term is through leveraging modern technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT). The war will have to be waged at two fronts: (a) minimise pollution and (b) predict and react on real-time basis. This translates into tracking and monitoring parameters which impact pollution levels in cities.

Sophisticated sensors can record, store and analyse data. With increase in affordable sensors that collect data and with advanced storage capabilities, new possibilities continue to emerge, helping track pollution in a more detailed way in real time at reduced costs, thus, helping in decisions aimed at anticipating and preventing pollution. Combined with other data sources such as the weather station data, demographic data, and social media data, the data analysis could yield real-time insight for decisions to improve air quality.

“The new technology could provide us with valuable insights into how to solve the problems, which means better chances to solve them. Knowing where pollution is coming from and how much it is present in the air will drive actions to reduce it,” said Shashank Dixit, CEO, Deskera, a cloud technology firm that has its own Big Data tool.

For example, if sensors record that air pollution is getting worse in specific area, traffic police may be asked to divert traffic to other areas that are less congested. Similarly, other responses could include measures such as allocation of more medical staff in areas expecting greater number of patients with respiratory ailments, regulating industries, so on and so forth. Such an approach would manage the problem on a real-time basis. Pollution per se can also be reduced by harnessing this technology through smarter use of public resources such as energy or water. For instance, sensor-enabled street lights could self-adjust after measuring the number of people present in an area at any particular time.

The time to act is now
According to a recent study, air pollution kills over 5.5 million people globally every year and half of the deaths occur in India and China. Delhi’s toxic smog is a wake-up call. We must act now to prevent any such recurrences in the future. If the nation wants to continue on the path of growth and development, the time to act is now.

With over 10 years of experience in the field of journalism, the author is a technology evangelist and avid blogger.

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