Pollution is a serious environmental and health hazard. All over the world.
Air pollution has an economic cost of over $1.5 trillion per annum for the European region alone, according to a WHO study!
It is not surprising hence that a good lot of work is going on to figure out how best to reduce the total pollution.
Now, this is where things get really tricky. Because, pollution is not something homogeneous but is something that has a number of sources and forms. Thus, pollution reduction is a complex, intricate topic that involves a whole lot of stakeholders and processes.
Let us have a quick overview of the types and sources of pollution before we zoom into the main topic of this post.
Types of Pollution
- Air pollution – sources of air pollution can be domestic, commercial and industrial; while domestic air pollution is a fairly homogeneous segment, no so with industrial and commercial. Industrial and commercial air pollution could be from commercial units such as hotels, or transport such as cars and airplanes and ships, or from a wide variety of industries spewing equally diverse types of pollutants into the atmosphere.
- Land Pollution – while what we see in front of us as solid pollution is mainly municipal solid waste and plastic waste. Solid pollution, similar to the other two, is far more than just domestic waste, and includes pollution from domestic, commercial and industrial sectors. A good portion of these pollutants can be hazardous as well.
- Water Pollution – similar to air pollution, the sources and forms of water pollution too are diverse and complex.
Mitigating/reducing pollution is a complex process, and involves multiple levers and drivers – government policies and regulations, financial incentives, logistics processes and infrastructure to transport the waste from source to destination, pollution control machinery and technology, financing for all parts of this value chain.
Now, where does software come in all this?
Well, as Lord Kelvin said, “What you cannot measure, you cannot control.”
It thus is simple to deduce that in order to control & reduce the extent of pollution – be it solid, water or air pollution – the first step is to monitor and measure pollution in various dimensions. Software, in the form of sensors and analytics, can to a large extent accomplish this.
Once we are able to measure the extent of pollution, the next step is of course to figure out how to achieve control over the amount of emissions/pollution.
Now, pollution control of course be completely done by software alone, and will require efforts in process changes, equipment design modifications, changes to raw materials where relevant, and also possibly incorporation of external elements such as pollution control equipments. But software can still play a role through the use of simulation and modelling for a number of components detailed above.
Through these concepts and mechanisms, software can thus significantly benefit the environmental pollution control sector, with significant contributions to the following segments:
- Emissions monitoring & control
- CO2 management
- Solid and liquid waste management
Which Key Stakeholders Will Benefit Most from Pollution Control Software?
Pollution control software solutions can especially benefit the following stakeholders:
- Companies trying to keep track of their emissions and comply with reporting requirements
- Air pollution monitoring by government bodies, industries
- Waste management companies
- Planning of new infrastructure by government bodies
- Software development companies
Let us look at the key categories of pollution control software. These are in:
- Emissions Management
- Air Pollution Monitoring
- Air Pollution Forecasting
- Carbon Accounting
- Solid & Liquid Waste Management
With concerns over the adverse effects of air pollution, governments have been tightening the regulatory controls. Industries are obligated to monitor and periodically report pollutants being released. Industries failing to follow the regulations or meet the ambient air quality requirements are subject to penalties and review of permits.
Without software, such a detailed and continuous monitoring and reporting would be impossible.
Today, software solutions are available that can be used to inventory all emissions (particulate, NOx, SOx etc.) at one place.
Air Pollution Monitoring
Cities around the world, from New York to Delhi and Beijing, are facing hazardous levels of air quality. This could be due to a combination of reasons like coal plants, industry emissions, improper waste management and vehicular emissions.
Breathing the polluted air causes ailments like respiratory infections, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, chronic lung disease and lung cancer. With these increasing concerns, policy makers from environmental and health agencies worldwide are making urgent calls to action to address the air pollution problem.
Real-time air pollution monitoring using software enables government agencies to protect public health by allowing them to give out alerts in the case of dangerous levels of pollution. Industrial units need such monitoring to maintain safe operations.
Air Pollution Forecasting
City authorities across the world are being forced to take measures (such as restricting use of automobiles, evaluation of new infrastructure development and promoting cleaner ways of transportation) to bring down pollutants below permitted levels.
Air pollution dispersion modeling software can come into great use in this context. These air quality models can be used by the environmental bodies to forecast air quality impacts from new infrastructure and air quality assessments of various emission sources in urban areas.
With climate change coming on top of the list of threats, nations have set greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets under the Paris agreement. A substantial portion of national emissions belong to corporations.
Carbon accounting is a step towards setting and achieving goals for emissions reduction. The trend is mostly because of pressure from investors, corporate customers, as well as banks and pension funds, who are concerned about the future viability of the business as increased climate regulations come into place.
Software solutions can be for calculation of CO2 footprints, legislative compliance regarding reporting of CO2 emission and management of CO2 emissions.
Solid & Liquid Waste Management
Solid waste management includes various approaches, including recycling for different commodities, municipal solid waste (MSW) composting, waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration and landfilling (with or without transfer stations) and waste reduction. Each will entail capital, operating, collection and transportation costs, various collection and transportation methods, billing, and account receivables, while there will be revenue generation from recyclables, MSW compost, electric and steam sales.
The above details should make it clear that while pollution control, like most of cleantech, is driven by engineering and the related processes and equipments, this is a domain where software and IT solutions also have a vital role.
To a large extent, the role of software is in monitoring, analytics and reporting. While this might not look like a big deal – playing a role mainly in monitoring and reporting – it actually is. For complex ecosystems such as pollution, monitoring and analytics could unearth a whole lot of insights that can be used for far more effective and efficient designs.
In fact, it could be said that some of the real efficiency gains in many of the pollution control ecosystems are achieved best by incorporating optimal software solutions for those domains.
Case studies on the role of software in pollution & emissions control:
AirVisual, a social enterprise, has launched an online 3D pollution map that enables visualization of pollution concentrations across the globe.
Let’s look at some of the highlights:
- AirVisual, a social enterprise providing air monitoring solutions, has launched AirVisual Earth
- AirVisual Earth is an online 3D air pollution map that enables visualization of pollution concentration across the globe
- The map allows users to see the ambient air particulate matters (PM 2.5) levels, air quality index level and weather patterns of 8000 key cities across the globe
- The map is developed based on satellite imagery and data reported by over 10000 monitoring stations
- Apart from providing real-time data on air quality, the map also provides forecast data for air and weather related indices
Environment Pollution Control Authority( EPCA) of India, has introduced a mobile app for the public with the intention of improving the air quality of the national capital, Delhi
Let’s look at some of the highlights:
- Hawa Badlo app, introduced by Environment Pollution Control Authority( EPCA) of India, is launched with the intention of improving the air quality of the national capital, Delhi
- The app enables residents to report occurrences of any leaf and garbage burning, building and construction dust and unpaved road dust.
- The application will generate weekly reports on the status of the cases and action taken by the Pollution Control Authority
- Aims to promote inclusive participation from the public, thereby making them accountable for their environment too
Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland has introduced a waste management solution to improve the operational efficiency of its facilities team.
Let’s look at some of the highlights:
- Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland has introduced a waste management solution from Ecube Labs
- The management solution consists of wireless fill-level sensors and a cloud based monitoring and analytics software platform
- Before installing the software solution, the Airport facilities team had to collect 840 containers about 4 times a day
- The fill level sensors deployed were able to monitor the generation of waste in all the passenger bins
- With the help of the software’s real time data collection and fill-level forecasting, the facilities team operations are now optimised to collecting only 80 containers a day
A Brief Glimpse of Companies Offering Pollution Control Software:
- Enablon: The Enablon Waste Management software solution manages waste from generation to disposal and provides consistent reporting for all waste generated across an organization. The software helps decision makers gain visibility of critical waste related data and identify waste sources.
- Umberto NXT CO2 : The software solution is designed to compute CO2 emissions associated with production processes in industries. The software helps model product life cycle and production processes conveniently and quickly. Based on the life cycle model, the software performs a reliable calculation of Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) or Corporate Carbon Footprint (CCF).
- EnviMan : EnviMan Forecaster is designed for daily air quality predictions. Air Quality Projections up to 48 hours can be generated for all types of air pollutants. The software calculates output parameters for individual pollutants or for combinations such as PSI (Pollutants Standard Index) or Air Quality Indicators.
- AirWare : It is a modular software solution for urban and industrial air quality assessment and management. AirWare provides integrated data management and modelling for building oriented air pollution statistics. The software supports decision makers with real-time now-casts and forecasts of air quality, basic scenario analysis for episodes, long-term scenarios for impact assessment of air quality.