Google provides view from the street on London pollution


London mayor Sadiq Khan has launched what is said to be the world’s most advanced and comprehensive network of air quality monitors, which co-opts Google’s Street View cars to build up a ‘real-time, hyperlocal image’ of pollution in the capital.

Breathe London will use a range of fixed and mobile sensors to collect data from across the capital, aiming to provide an ‘unprecedented level of detail about London’s air quality crisis and deliver new insight into the sources of pollution’.

Mr Khan has collaborated with the Environmental Defense Fund, Europe and Google Earth Outreach, which has equipped two of its Street View cars with air quality sensors.

Graphic shows data from a Street View car driving in Southwark and Lambeth on an afternoon last September and the location of nearby Breathe London fixed and existing air pollution monitors

These vehicles will take pollution readings approximately every 30 metres at tens of thousands of locations as they travel through London, building up a picture of its air quality over the course of a year and identifying areas of toxic air that the network of fixed monitors might miss.

At the same time, 100 fixed sensor pods will be mounted on lampposts and buildings close to known air quality hotspots and sensitive locations such as schools and nurseries.

The data generated by this new network will be publicly available on an interactive online map on the Breathe London website, which will show Londoners the condition of the air they are currently breathing and allow more accurate pollution forecasting.

Mr Khan said he hoped the project will act as a blueprint for cities around the world ‘as they battle their own toxic air emergencies’.

He said: ‘London’s filthy air is a public health crisis that leads to thousands of premature deaths in the capital every year as well as stunting the development of young lungs and increasing cases of respiratory illness.

‘An issue this large and complex requires bold and innovative action, so I’m proud that we’re leading the world in establishing this new monitoring network – allowing Londoners to see the levels of pollution at a local level. This real-time data will also help us learn more about London’s toxic air and help us to put the right policies in place to continue our clean-up efforts.’

Baroness Bryony Worthington, executive director, Environmental Defense Fund, Europe, said: ‘The Breathe London partnership is breaking new ground. We’re developing new scientific approaches using the latest technologies to explore London’s air quality in unprecedented detail.

‘This will provide information for both the public and decision makers that can help drive better solutions to a problem that affects every Londoner.’

The project builds on London’s existing air quality monitoring network, operated by the boroughs and King’s College London.

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