Air pollution in China is so high that it's almost impossible to see the blue sky, hidden behind a permanent dark cloud that hovers over the major cities of the country. In the capital city of Beijing, the “smog” – a toxic fog – is ever present and pollution peaks are reached on a regular basis. According to Berkeley Earth, a Californian NGO, the air pollution is so serious that it has already led to thousands of deaths every day. While Chinese officials mostly tend to ignore or underestimate the issue, some measures have nevertheless been taken in order to fight this toxic cloud. This was the case in 2008, when the city hosted the Olympics.
However, 2014 marked a change in mentality and Chinese authorities have started tackling the problem seriously, with the help of state-of-the art technologies. For instance, a partnership was created between IBM and the Environmental Protection Bureau, that operates in Beijing, with the development of project “Green Horizons”. The program, which will be implemented over ten years, relies on two technological innovations: IoT (the Internet of Things) and cognitive computing. The latter is a new evolution in the world of IT, as the data collected through connected devices is processed and turned into knowledge. Watson, IBM's own smart computer, has already proved how competent the company was in this area.
When it comes to fighting air pollution in the Chinese capital, the combination of both technologies is a great way to significantly improve the forecast for toxic particle emissions. While Beijing was already using sensors that could detect pollutants, the collaboration with IBM results in forecasts that are 30% more precise and can be created for ten days. The company uses probes, meteorological stations and satellites, as well as cameras monitoring traffic and social networks. The data that is thus collected makes it possible to create templates and offer solutions to reduce polluting particle emissions, such as alternate driving, temporary suspensions of industrial activities, etc. When made way in advance, these decisions also make it possible to have a reduced impact on economic activities. The goal of “Green Horizons” is also to drive Beijing to use its energy sources differently, as they rely heavily on coal burning at the moment.
The Chinese capital stated that it wanted to reduce its polluting particle emissions by 25% and it has already announced it managed to diminish air pollution by 20%. The city seems to be on the right track.
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