Connected pigeons: Solving London's pollution problem

- 29th June 2017 -

More than 80% of people living in urban areas that record air pollution are exposed to toxic air quality levels that exceed WHO limits.

London is no exception, breaching its legal limit for toxic air for the entire year in the first five days of 2017.

Furthermore, a recent study found that 10,000 people died in just one year due to air pollution in London.

Today, air pollution is one of the biggest killers, contributing to more deaths than HIV and road accidents. Last week, we covered how sensors that measure air quality can help ensure businesses aren't harming the environment and public health. However, the causes of most air pollution are far beyond the control of businesses, and instead require intervention on a local, national, and international scale.

Making the invisible visible

The foundation of fighting air pollution is measurement, and technology is playing a vital part in monitoring air quality, predicting pollution levels, and issuing public warnings. Gathering and communicating this data has never been easier, thanks to the adoption of IoT across smart cities.

Introducing London's Pigeon Air Patrol

Last year, pigeons wearing tiny backpacks with pollution sensors were deployed across London.

Data collection enabled by IoT connectivity meant areas of London could be categorised by toxicity in realtime. 😷

This rating could then be sent to Londoners who requested information about their area via Twitter.

On a more national level, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) use the scale below to monitor and report on toxic air levels

Indexes like these are now used as part of a public alert system introduced by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, in 2016.

Making use of city infrastructure

The success of monitoring, forecasting, and controlling air pollution to protect public health depends on cities like London creating networks of IoT enabled objects across their infrastructure.


Bicycles just like the one our Business Development Manager Terence will be using in Ride London present an excellent opportunity to increase the reach of smart sensors and provide realtime maps and statistics on air pollution levels.

IoT enabled bikes can give councils a more accurate understanding of environmental points. This information can be used to reduce and offset emissions by increasing the accuracy of tree planting, as well as diverting heavy traffic to less polluted routes and streamlining congestion. 🚲 📈 🌲 🚗

Next week:

Find out more about the IoT tech on Terence's bike

Four weeks to go

Terence will be riding for stem4. You can sponsor him here--any donation is much appreciated! Connect with us on LinkedIn Follow us on Twitter Visit our Big Data Cycle page to find out more and explore the story so far 🚴

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