Air pollution in China and IBM green initiatives

By | 1 minute read | August 26, 2016

Skyline of a polluted city

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.