Smarter and cleaner cities with Vaisala’s technology and air quality know-how

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Innovations and Inspirations

Vaisala is part of an expert organizations’ joint project, Helsinki Metropolitan Air Quality Testbed (HAQT), which aims to offer local air quality data for the Helsinki Metropolitan area. The data will be used to accelerate new innovations, develop new services and improve decision making to enhance air quality and the quality of life. Targeting high, and who knows, perhaps the urban air quality know-how will be the next big export item for Finland?

Smart & Clean Foundation has now been operating for one year. The outcomes of the co-operation are soon to be seen: The world’s first comprehensive city-wide air quality network for operational use will be built in Helsinki Metropolitan area in 2017–2018. The new network will supplement the current measurement stations already placed around the city, and the data gathered from the more dense measurement network will be used to improve the air quality forecasts especially.

Vaisala is by no means doing this all by itself. Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) has the initiative lead and is also responsible for creating the predictive model from the results. Vaisala and Pegasor are providing world class sensors to the project, Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY is in a central role in analyzing and disseminating the data, and the University of Helsinki is validating the system.

HAQT is a Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation project. The foundation is a step change project to drive the change towards a more sustainable and prosperous future. Partners in this unique co-operation include cities, businesses, R&D community and state organizations. Vaisala is one of the partners.

Aiming to improve city dwellers’ quality of life

Air quality is a growing health problem around the world. More than 80% of people living in urban areas are exposed to air pollution levels that exceed WHO limits. While all the regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income and densely populated cities are impacted the most. Major cities in Europe, such as Paris or London, also suffer from this problem.

In Finland, air quality is generally good, but even here 40% of city dwellers get symptoms from street dust, and air pollution is estimated to cause about 1,600 premature deaths per year. The increased amount of health problems and premature deaths have a direct impact on the economy through higher medical expenses and loss of productivity.

Air quality varies significantly even in very small areas due to e.g. weather, emissions, and traffic flows. In order to improve the air quality, and ultimately the quality of the city dwellers’ lives, the data needs to offer local information.

This is where the new air quality monitoring network will show its power: It will help to compile comprehensive information about air quality, as each sensor in the monitoring network will deliver unique data from different parts of the city. Those results are then used to improve the air quality in Helsinki region as well as creating new, innovative applications, and piloting solutions suitable for export. Possible applications can be related to health and well-being and traffic, public transportation and urban planning.

All actions to improve air quality need to be based on reliable measurement data. The new air quality monitoring system uses Vaisala's innovative AQT400 series transmitters, which are a cost efficient solution to measuring the most important air pollutants reliably: particles, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone and carbon monoxide.

The instruments are easy to install and deploy as well as to maintain. They can also be connected to Vaisala's weather measurement equipment as well as different air quality modeling systems. The combination can significantly improve the reliability of real-time air quality measurements and forecasts in diverse terrain and city environments.

Helsinki Air Quality Test Bed

Helsinki Air Quality Test Bed is one of the several projects facilitated by the Smart & Clean Foundation. The grounds for the Smart & Clean Foundation was traffic and mobility, construction, energy, waste and water, as well as consumer cleantech, digitalization and circular economy. The Foundation was established in the Helsinki region and will continue to operate until 2021.

The Helsinki Metropolitan Smart & Clean Foundation is a five-year (2016–2021) step change project started by Sitra. The foundation’s task is to drive the change in the Helsinki capital region and the City of Lahti in order to make the areas the world’s best test beds for smart and clean solutions.

Smart & Clean partners are
cities: Helsinki, Vantaa, Espoo, Lahti and Kauniainen, as well as the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council;
businesses: Fortum, St1, Neste, Caverion, Lassila & Tikanoja, YIT, Helen, KONE, Gasum, Vaisala, Siemens, Ramirent;
universities and research organizations: Aalto University, University of Helsinki, Lappeenranta Technical University and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland;
nationwide influencers: Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Ministry of the Environment, and Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation