How Environmental Data Can Shape the Future of Cities

June 14, 2024
2 min read
How Environmental Data Can Shape the Future of CitiesHow Environmental Data Can Shape the Future of Cities

This is a view of the New York City skyline from June 7th, 2023.

New York City from June 2023
Source: Leslie Josephs, CNBC

Massive plumes of smoke emerging from the Canadian wildfires early this year blanketed several major North American cities in a canopy of unbreathable air. It’s estimated that around 160 million tons of CO₂ was emitted in the blaze as AQI hit 342–an unprecedented number for everyday New York.

While authorities issued warnings, people rushed indoors to protect themselves. As the skies continued to appear painted with a PM 2.5 colored pigment, several vital operations, such as inbound flights, scheduled events, schools, and even businesses, came to a halt.

More concerningly, there was a 20% increase in emergency room visits for asthma and other respiratory problems during the week of June 5-11.

This begs the question–

In the wake of such climatic uncertainties, can we genuinely consider our cities livable?

For New York City, a metropolis housing approximately 20 million people and serving as a major global hub, such environmental emergencies could prove to be more than just hazardous–but fatal. This is particularly concerning given that 1 in every 10 New Yorkers grapples with hay fever and asthma.

Going beyond New York, modern city living itself has become a perfect petri dish for allergens and other pollutants to prosper and wreak havoc. The ‘urban heat island,’ is perfectly supported by heavy traffic, pervasive stress, and a scarcity of green spaces. As a result, the quality of life has severely deteriorated.

And that’s only considering outdoor pollution.

|Suggested Reading: how indoor pollution might be more harmful to you than the air outdoors.

By 2045, the world’s urban population will be 6 billion people. It is absolutely unreasonable for city residents to endure such environmental stress in their regular day-to-day, let alone during catastrophes.

Thankfully, there is a solution.

1. Air Quality Monitoring

99% of the world is breathing harmful air. Cities around the world are grappling with air pollution, which poses a severe threat to public health.

Many cities, such as Los Angeles, New Delhi, and Beijing, routinely and effectively implement traffic and industrial pollution control strategies.

But there’s a way to make rapid progress soon.

By integrating air quality sensors and air quality intelligence (both real-time and forecast) data into various applications–urban planners, as well as organizations, can identify pollution hotspots, pinpoint emission sources, and develop strategies to mitigate the problem.

This data helps in the development of cleaner transportation options, the implementation of green infrastructure, and the enforcement of pollution control measures.

See below to learn about how Ambee’s data has supported Sanofi’s Allegra in implementing a smart navigation technology across New York 👇

Read the case study

2. Climate Resilience

As climate change accelerates, cities need to adapt.

Environmental data can assist in identifying areas vulnerable to climate-related challenges like flooding, extreme heat, and sea-level rise. With this information, cities can make informed decisions regarding urban development, transportation routes, and infrastructure resilience to withstand the effects of a changing climate.

See: How the Dutch city of Rotterdam plans to fully implement its climate-proof plan to prevent flooding, heat waves, and more.

3. Energy Efficiency

Cities consume 78% of the world’s primary energy every year. Energy efficiency is paramount to building sustainable living spaces.

Environmental data–in this case, can provide insights into energy consumption patterns. Smart buildings, street lighting, and transportation systems can be optimized for energy efficiency, reducing the carbon footprint and the cost of operation. The data can help urban planners determine the most effective use of renewable energy sources and manage energy resources intelligently.

See: San Francisco’s smart lighting initiative.

4. Wildfire and Disaster Tracking

By analyzing historical wildfire patterns and disaster-prone zones, cities can strategically locate critical facilities and transportation hubs to minimize vulnerability. Real-time data from wildfires and natural disasters can inform dynamic traffic management, rerouting vehicles to avoid affected areas and ensuring efficient emergency response. Furthermore, integrating this information into smart mobility solutions can enhance communication and coordination during crises, allowing for the safe evacuation of residents and efficient allocation of resources.

5. Predictive Analytics

To ensure a viable future, we should consider not only immediate intervention but also a long-term strategy to preserve it. Environmental intelligence offers insights into current conditions and can also be used for predictive analytics. By analyzing historical data, cities can anticipate environmental challenges and trends, helping them proactively plan for future contingencies.

6. Public Awareness and Education

Public engagement and awareness are also critical to encouraging citizens to be proactive. Apps and websites that provide real-time environmental data, such as air quality or noise levels, can empower citizens to make informed decisions about their daily activities and transportation choices.

To that end, have a look at our partnership with Allegra–

Ambee for Allegra Airways

Sanofi, a global healthcare company, partnered with Ambee to launch its groundbreaking new tool, Allegra Airways.

Allegra Airways is the world’s first navigational tool that provides real-time routes with less air and pollen pollution. It is backed by Ambee’s environmental data in real-time, ensuring that users can breathe easily while exploring their city.

Ambee for Safer Cities

Ambee’s vision to make accurate data accessible to all has been at the heart of all its innovation. Let’s join hands to make safe urban living a reality. If you’d like to explore how our intelligence works, feel free to reach out to us here.

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