Big data analytics company and ETH Zurich spin-off Teralytics, Telefónica NEXT and sustainability solution provider South Pole Group conducted a study in Nuremberg, Germany that reveals the analysis of mobile network data as an effective way to estimate CO2 and NOX emissions in urban areas at very low cost. To achieve this, Teralytics examined aggregated and anonymised data, which is generated when mobile devices communicate with Telefónica’s mobile communication cells while users make calls, send texts or browse the internet. Teralytics was able to refine this raw data into human mobility patterns to understand how the different modes of transport, for instance trains or cars, are frequented. Combining this information with data on the emissions of the different transport modes, the three entities were able to estimate air pollution and GHG emissions in the city.
As each form of transportation produces a unique amount of CO2 and NOX emissions, understanding urban mobility patterns is vital to understand the source of emissions. The study in Nuremberg used this information to estimate with up to 77 per cent accuracy the concentration of air pollutants in the city. These findings encourage further exploration of how big data can be used to understand and ultimately solve environmental issues such as air pollution in cities across the world. This is particularly interesting with regards to the lower cost of analysing and interpreting data compared to the higher cost of production and maintenance of elaborate measuring stations. The novel approach could thus allow an ongoing analysis on a nationwide scale.
“While our contemporary urban lifestyles result in the generation of harmful greenhouse gasses, it also generates large amounts of behavioural data. Our mission at Teralytics is to use this data for the benefit of society,” says Georg Polzer, CEO of Teralytics. “Our findings from Nuremberg showed that this data can be used to give city planners insights into how human mobility contributes to pollution. This is a vital part to efficiently design and implement clean air and low carbon strategies. We are looking forward to further exploring this opportunity.”
Using a three-level process, the fully anonymised and aggregated data was first transformed into movement flows by the data scientists at Teralytics, identifying over 1.2 million transportation routes during the analysed time period, as depicted in Figure 2. The sustainability solution expert South Pole Group then used an atmospheric model to estimate air pollution levels caused by the usage of the different modes of transportation, taking into account meteorological data and information on the respective traffic carriers’ emission levels from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMUB). In the third step, the accuracy of the method was examined by comparing the findings with existing data from air pollution measuring stations. The values measured at these stations were found to correlate up to 77 per cent with those from the Teralytics’ calculations (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Correlation between measured NOx concentrations and NOx concentration calculated by Teralytics. This approach shows high correlations between values, in some cases up to 77 per cent.
The results of this pilot study in Nuremberg constitute a sound basis to further develop the methodology. Following its success, the consortium was able to secure financial support from Climate KIC’s Low Carbon City Lab (LoCaL), an initiative that brings together cities, business, academia and NGO’s to deliver high environmental and societal impact. With this backing, the research partnership will expand and improve the methodology, focusing on short travel routes and taking into account local emission factors like airports, large-scale events, and types of vehicles on the road (i.e. electric cars and SUVs). Moreover, the influence of factors such as traffic jams and red lights will be taken into account in order to make even more accurate estimations of the air pollution levels in a city.
“The results from this pilot study exceed our expectations,” says Maximilian Groth, responsible for Business Development & Partnerships at Teralytics. “We are confident that we will soon be able to scale this product to cities worldwide to support urban planners in making our air cleaner and achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement at the lowest possible cost.”
This research follows other successful studies on usage of mobile network data, including a smart data analysis for transport in Stuttgart by Teralytics, Telefónica Germany, and Fraunhofer IAO.
Additional comments on the topic:
“Approximately 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are generated in cities, meaning that they play a key role in climate protection. We see great potential in the use of continuously generated data, such as mobile network data, to measure and reduce pollution levels in cities.” States Renat Heuberger, CEO of South Pole Group.
Florian Marquart, Managing Director of Telefónica NEXT for Advanced Data Analytics: “The pilot project in Nuremberg has clearly shown the specific added value of anonymised mobile network data for the environment. This is data from people for people. We see great potential in the results and will start the next phase of our research. The goal is to develop a product that German cities, German states and the German federal government can use to better face the challenges of emissions pollution”.
About Teralytics: Teralytics is the trusted data analytics partner for some of the largest telecom operators in North America, Europe and Asia. Using technology built for operators by data scientists, we have perfected the ingestion, modelling and transformation of raw signals from subscriber actions and movements on operator networks to deliver meaningful and actionable insights, that delivers new value to our mobile operator partners. By unlocking and processing a massive scale of device movement and consumer intelligence data from location and behavioural signals, we can analyse people, places and things and offer actual insights to help city planners, venue owners, retailers, NGOs and media companies make informed decisions, optimize operations and maximize ROI. Headquartered in Zurich, Teralytics has offices in New York, and Singapore.
South Pole Group is a leading provider of global sustainability solutions and services. The company has delivered climate-proven solutions to a wide range of public, private and civil society organisations for over a decade. The Group’s expertise covers key areas of corporate climate action, investment climate risks, sustainable supply chains, green finance, as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency. A pioneer in emission reduction and renewable energy projects, South Pole Group has been consistently rated by Environmental Finance’s Voluntary Carbon Market Survey as one of the most successful carbon market service providers in the world. www.thesouthpolegroup.com
Within Telefónica Germany NEXT GmbH based in Berlin, Telefónica Deutschland has bundled its digital growth areas “Advanced Data Analytics” and “Internet of Things”. The new company acts as an independent entrepreneur on the market and develops digital products and services under CEO Nicolaus Gollwitzer. As a partner to other industries, Telefónica NEXT enables companies to make better use of the growth opportunities provided by digitalisation. With “Advanced Data Analytics”, Telefónica NEXT focuses on the social and economic advantage that can be obtained from analysing large volumes of data. In addition, Telefónica NEXT is working on solutions for the Internet of Things. The new software platform geeny.io helps companies to offer connected solutions for end users. Telefónica NEXT imposes strict data protection standards on all products and applications, and often goes even further, because people should be able to retain control over their data and shape their digital lives as they choose.
Climate-KIC is the largest European innovation initiative for climate-friendly technologies. Launched as EU program 2010, Climate-KIC supports with offices in 15 European countries innovation projects, start-ups and young innovators. Numerous partners from industry and commerce, science, public sector and civil society work in Climate-KIC on ground-breaking, scalable innovations to fight climate changes.
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