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Data-driven approaches enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are crucial to the development of more livable and sustainable cities. By fostering evidence-based and effective action plans, they can play a key role in helping mitigate climate change in an economically sustainable fashion, accessing investment funds and guaranteeing regulatory compliance.
It is high time to invest in climate change mitigation and sustainability. By empowering cities to take policy and investment decisions informed by key indicators, objectives and results, the IoT and AI can play a critical role in this regard. Large amounts of datasets about mobility, people’s activities, environmental evolution, ambient data and several socioeconomic indicators – if they can be integrated and contextually understood – make it possible for cities to work towards the realisation of the EU Green Deal and help achieve sustainability.
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Our company, HOPU, is one of the scale-up companies supporting climate change innovation across Europe. We focus on empowering urban innovation with disruptive technologies such as AI for environmental assessment, while harnessing IoT devices to monitor impact, sustainability and the environment. HOPU offers a service that simplifies available data into a unique indicator that contextualises, models and forecasts environmental conditions. This supports informed decision making for a given territory, taking into account its specific characteristics, management team, and citizens. The current use cases of the service include a high range of indicators related to pollen families and levels, detecting pollution sources (industry, traffic etc.), the impact of Low Emission Zones (LEZ), urban health monitoring in specific areas, and compliance with the Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, we are extending initial datasets with hyperlocal monitoring of key parameters such as air quality, population flows, noise, traffic and ambient air quality thanks to IoT-based environmental monitoring devices.
Yet, it is important to note that it is not only about data: we must to take into account equity, social impact and well-balanced economic distribution. And in this respect, AI can be a key instrument to find the right balance and identify the most appropriate trade-offs. Following the FIWARE Open Source approach, the IoT and AI allow us to integrate datasets from different data sources such as water consumption, air quality, mobility, urban health and socioeconomics. This allows us to better understand and contextualise the effectiveness of every action taken. Importantly, data quality is crucial for an AI-based approach, which raises the need for strong standards for IoT devices and sensors. Furthermore, the engagement of urban planners and decision-makers in the process is essential to ensure that the deployment of these new technological solutions remains understandable, intuitive and benefits the whole city ecosystem.
HOPU is now working in over 30 cities, such as La Palma (Spain), alongside its pollen service for asthmatic and allergic people, as well as in Madrid with one flagship project for the monitoring of nanoparticle pollution. The main value lies in differentiation for innovative services and urban design support. For example, a service focused on the use of data on air quality, weather and people flows in Cartagena (Spain) allows for an efficient management of green zones. This deployment has been recognised by both the newspaper Le Monde and the European Commission. In Helsinki, HOPU has used AI and a visualisation tool to detect and classify the main sources of pollution for data-driven and more efficient decision-making.
Investing in climate change mitigation implies pivoting to more effective and evidenced-based investments. The EU Green Deal is offering an important framework to make this feasible, notably through its focus on KPIs and real outcomes. In this way, it allows us to envision data-driven climate change mitigation, whereby all urban policies take health and sustainability into consideration thanks to smart technologies.
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