Environment

Air pollution in China and IBM green initiatives

Share this post:

Beijing, China has struggled with dangerous levels of pollution for years. In 2015, the city issued two unprecedented red alerts, indicating critical levels. Breathing Beijing’s air, according to a study released last year by U.S.-based nonprofit Berkeley Earth, is comparable to smoking 30 cigarettes a day. Air pollution fluctuates greatly based on weather, humidity, temperature, and wind. Pollutants bond with water molecules to create smog, a denser, visible pollution that typically sits stagnant. While winds can help disperse pollutants, they can also bring new ones with them. When temperatures rise, so does the hot air, causing greater mixture and movement of the pollution and resulting in chemical reactions that can be particularly harmful. All of these factors make it extremely difficult to predict the rapid fluctuation of air pollution levels; this means that residents often do not receive ample time to protect themselves from the smog.

Green Horizons

IBM’s Green Horizons initiative is utilizing the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence in order to predict pollution levels and ultimately, drastically lower pollutants. The numerous factors that contribute to air-pollution levels (traffic levels, weather, humidity, wind patterns, etc.) are ingested by connected sensors all over China’s capital, and then broken down by artificial intelligence systems.

While the data is too complex for human analysts to be able to detect patterns, AI and IoT technologies are able to digest big data in order to pinpoint trends. After conducting predictive analysis, the system is able to make forecasts far more effectively than ever before. Since launching the initiative in 2014, IBM has been able to generate high-resolution 1-by-1-kilometer pollution forecasts 72 hours in advance, giving citizens more warning and planning time.

This data will not only help today’s citizens to prepare for daily conditions, but it will help future citizens by helping the city of Beijing to reach its goals of reducing smog-generating particulate matter in the capital by 25 percent by 2017. With sensors, IoT data, AI and its human assessment can identify polluters and help to design smarter cities, highways, and coping methods. The Green Horizons initiative will soon be moving to other heavily polluted cities, including Johannesburg and New Delhi.

To read more about how IoT technologies are creating a greener planet, check out IoT and the environment: a greener world.

More Blog stories

Urgent worldwide call for developers: help us provide earthquake preparation to those in impacted areas

Written by Lin Ju | July 8, 2019 | Charity and development, Environment, News / Press release

A group of us at IBM in Toronto, Canada have developed a solution to assist those who live in volatile areas. Frida, an end-to-end solution for natural disasters, also brings support to first responders and others who provide much needed relief when disaster strikes. ...read more


Call for Code initiative: technology in the face of natural disaster

Written by Matthew Mikell and Lauren Konchan | August 22, 2018 | Environment

In a connected world, we’ve come to rely on consistent communications for our everyday lives. But what happens when disaster strikes? In the aftermath of devastating weather events and natural disasters, can the Internet of Things help restore emergency communications – or even save lives? Call for Code is an IBM-led initiative seeking to answer ...read more


Earth Day 2018: 5 Acts of Green

Written by Jen Clark | April 20, 2018 | Environment

It’s Earth Day on the 22nd April, which means it’s time to focus on looking after our planet. The Earth Day Network is doing a fantastic job at bringing people together to tackle major environmental challenges by committing to small, individual ‘Acts of Green’. They’re running multiple campaigns, from reforestation and protecting endangered species through to climate change, ...read more