Helsinki as Testbed for Pioneering Urban Air Quality System

HELSINKI, FINLAND–(Marketwired – December 14, 2017) – The Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation brings together the latest technologies and air quality knowhow from Finland in the Helsinki Metropolitan Air Quality Testbed project. The project builds a dense network of air quality monitoring stations covering the Helsinki metropolitan area to produce data for accurate reports on current and future local air quality. The air quality model, to be developed in 2017-2018, can bring major benefits to urban hubs troubled with poor air quality.

Poor air quality is a serious threat to health. More than 80 percent of people in urban areas are exposed to air pollution levels that exceed the limits of the World Health Organization, which estimates that approximately 7 million people died prematurely from air pollution in 2012.

Finland addresses the global challenge of poor air quality with the Helsinki Metropolitan Air Quality Testbed project – HAQT for short. The project develops a system that will help citizens to protect themselves from air pollution and public authorities to undertake measures to improve air quality.

Maria Myllynen, head of the air protection unit at Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, explains why Helsinki is an ideal metropolis to develop solutions to poor air quality: “While Helsinki itself is one of the cleanest metropolitan areas in terms of air quality, Finland’s world-leading atmospheric research, air quality monitoring capabilities and measurement technologies combine in Helsinki, making the area an ideal test laboratory.”

HAQT project manager Timo Nousiainen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute sums up the project’s global significance: “The main difference between our project and other air quality monitoring projects carried out elsewhere in the world is modeling. That allows us to produce local air quality forecasts to aid decision-making.”

Nousiainen continues to outline the project goal: “The HAQT project will produce a roadmap for future air quality systems, to be used as a model in urban hubs to solve their air quality problems.”

The HAQT project is a showcase of the operations and objectives of the Smart & Clean public-private partnership. The partnership combines a wide range of Finnish actors to work on urban problems using Helsinki as a platform. “Our goal is to make Helsinki the world’s best testbed for solutions to pressing global challenges,” says Tiina Kähö, Executive Director, adding that the solutions should produce new technologies and services with business potential.

In December 2017, new state-of-the-art air quality monitoring instruments are being tested by Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, to equip 15 new light sensor sites. The new sites will complement the Helsinki metropolitan area’s existing air quality monitoring network comprising 11 fixed monitoring stations of HSY and 1 station at the HAQT project partner University of Helsinki.

The new monitoring instruments are provided by the Finnish technology companies Vaisala and Pegasor specializing in atmospheric measurement and air quality monitoring. Vaisala’s AQT420 sensors measure the main air pollutants: particles, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. Pegasor’s AQ™ Urban sensors measure the most harmful, ultrafine particles.

Owing to their relatively low cost, the Vaisala and Pegasor instruments make it possible to build affordable, comprehensive monitoring networks to complement fixed stations. The fixed monitoring stations of most cities are too limited and far apart to produce local air quality information, failing to address the highly local nature of urban air pollution problems.

From early 2018 onwards, the new dense monitoring network in the Helsinki metropolitan area will feed air quality data into the Finnish Meteorological Institute’s environmental information fusion service ENFUSER, which will convert the data into easy-to-read air quality information, to point out emission sources and to provide an accurate picture of local pollution concentrations. ENFUSER will produce air quality heatmaps of high resolution, with intervals as little as 12 meters (40 feet). The heatmaps will show past, current and forecasted air quality with hourly concentration.

A central principle of the Helsinki Metropolitan Air Quality Testbed project is to serve the air quality data as open data to third parties, in order to generate new air quality applications with business potential. The project will launch an open access data interface in 2018.

Also central to the Helsinki Metropolitan Air Quality Testbed project is to integrate it with its sister project CITYZER. CITYZER develops an IoT-based open business ecosystem that turns atmospheric observations into digital products and services to support decision-making processes: the system combines air quality data with weather data to automatically produce such services as early warnings and forecasts (up to 24 hours), which help to avoid human suffering and costs from poor air quality and adverse weather conditions. The Finnish Meteorological Institute will launch a CITYZER demo in January 2018.

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An air quality monitoring station of Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY. Photo Tero Pajukallio/HSY

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Contact: Johanna Lemola
City of Helsinki

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