Scientists work with BT to measure air pollution in Birmingham

New digital hubs will help give a better picture of air quality issues

Air pollution is being monitored by sensors integrated within new InLink digital street units in Birmingham - as it becomes one of the first areas in the UK to benefit from ‘real-time’ air quality data via the high-tech hubs.

Air quality data is being collected every minute from Internet of Things (IoT) modular sensors which can send data over the InLinks’ ultrafast integrated Wi-Fi. Data is then available via BT’s data hub for analysis by a group of researchers and scientists, led by the University of Birmingham, to help monitor air pollution in the area.

InLinkUK from BT is a state-of-the-art digital “hub” that replaces traditional payphones on the streets of Birmingham and across the UK. The InLink units provide a range of free digital services to the local community including free ultrafast Wi-Fi, free phone calls, free mobile device charging, community news and easy access to the emergency services.

Utilising the InLinks for air quality monitoring avoids the need for additional street clutter, with the Wi-Fi providing a reliable way to transmit the information in real time.

The data provided by the InLinks will complement results from other air quality monitoring equipment used in the WM-Air – West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme.

Air pollution in the West Midlands affects around 2.8 million people, reducing life expectancy by up to six months and costing the economy up to £860 million a year, according to recent reports.

Professor William Bloss, of the University of Birmingham, leads the WM-Air project.

He said: “There is a pressing need for more detailed measurements across cities such as Birmingham to deliver clean air science. It’s important for us to understand the levels of air pollution in the city as it can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of people who live and work here.

“We are exploring use of the new BT sensors alongside a number of initiatives we already have in place to measure air pollution and improve air quality.”

Neil Scoresby, General Manager Payphones and InLinkUK at BT, said the company was excited to be supporting initiatives to measure air pollution in Birmingham.

“By collecting air quality data at multiple points and more often, it is possible for WM-Air to gain a much better understanding of air pollution in real time via the BT data hub.

“This is a great example of how BT is working with communities in cities like Birmingham to explore how the IoT capability of the InLinks can support a range of smart city initiatives.”

Birmingham, along with Bradford, are the first cities in the UK to use the air quality monitoring via the InLinks. Other cities are set to benefit over the coming months.