AI system to predict air pollution levels

Loughborough University computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that can predict air pollution levels hours in advance.

The technology can give predictions for levels from one hour to up to two days ahead, and it’s hoped the system will lead to a better understanding of the weather, seasonal and environmental factors that can impact fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

The LU team created the system using machine learning – a type of artificial intelligence technology that uses large amounts of data to learn rules and features, so a system can make predictions.

Professor Qinggang Meng and Dr Baihua Li are leading the project and says the system predicts PM2.5 levels plus a range of values the air pollution reading could fall within – known as ‘uncertainty analysis’.

They also believe it has the capabilities to be used as an air pollution analysis tool in a carbon credit trading system and will help understand how carbon can be used as a tradeable commodity to establish a new effective economic leverage for controlling emissions.

The scientists hope the tool will help potential end-users, policymakers and scientists to better understand related causes of PM2.5 and how reliable the prediction is.

The researchers used public historical data on air pollution in Beijing to train and test the algorithms; China was selected as the focus as 145 of 161 Chinese cities have serious air pollution problems.

The developed system will now be tested on live data captured by sensors deployed in Shenzhen, China.  

Professor Meng said: ‘Air pollution is a long-term accumulated challenge faced by the whole world, and especially in many developing countries.

‘The project aims to measure and forecast air quality and pollution levels. We also explore the feasibility of linking the real-time information on carbon emission to end-to-end carbon credit trading, thus dedicating to carbon control and greenhouse gas emission reduction.

‘We hope this research will help lead to cleaner air for the community and improve people’s health in the future.’

The system developed at Loughborough University is part of a wider research project funded by the Newton Fund, which has four partners: Satoshi Systems Ltd, Loughborough University, Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, and EEG Smart Intelligent Technology in China.

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