At Telefónica, we strongly believe that data is a key factor in making sure that we drive society towards a more sustainable model (see global Unit LUCA for data-driven decisions). Creating compelling partnerships to achieve our objectives is fundamental.

Sustainable Development Goals

Image credit: United Nations

This is precisely why our team within the newly founded company Telefónica Germany NEXT GmbH has been working together with Teralytics and South Pole to find a smarter data solution for reducing air pollution in the city of Nuremberg.

Why and how are we doing this?

Urban areas and their respective local governments are facing immense challenges with accelerating rates of CO2 emissions. And Germany is no exception, with many German cities showing excessive pollution levels in recent years. In order to ensure cleaner air for cities, the first and most important step is to collect accurate data to identify where the major air pollution hotspots are.

To successfully address this gap, we have engaged with a wide range of public sector bodies and partners with the goal of providing actionable insights about traffic and crowd mobility patterns by using mobile data: as Germany's largest mobile communications provider in terms of customer base, Telefónica Germany with its subsidiary Telefónica NEXT provides anonymised mobile data to Teralytics that converts this data into motion and traffic flows by using their specially developed algorithms. The insights are then passed on to South Pole Group who derives from these results the amount of different pollutants. The results of the pilot project are compared to the already existing data on Nuremberg's air quality that consists of weather data as well as traffic data from traffic counts submitted by monitoring stations.

In a nutshell: after anonymising and aggregating customer data (Data Anonymization Platform), we are able to provide key insights for better pollution analysis and for transport planners looking to decarbonise their cities. The latest results, soon to be released, will help the authorities in Nuremberg to measure, anticipate and tackle pollution in a more cost-effective way - thus reducing the economic impact for the German taxpayer.

For local governments, air quality management can be costly and more often than not, the way we study traffic is relatively manual, using roadside interview data and manual counters. Not only is this expensive, but it's often inaccurate - providing only a small snapshot on how traffic really moves around cities and countries. However, by using mobile data, authorities in Germany will be able to shift to Big Data (rather than small samples) and receive insights on a regular, more dynamic basis as opposed to more traditional data collection methods. Mobile data technologies allow us to get specific insights on how fast cars are traveling, which roads suffer from more traffic, and what mode of transport people are using (just to name a few).

What does this mean for the city of Nuremberg?

Tackling air pollution is a top priority for decision-makers in Nuremberg, which is why they have drafted a new clean air plan to address the problem in a systematic way. However, making informed decisions and taking focused action to tackle air quality issues requires accurate data on the prevailing pollution intensity. The results of the study on smarter data solutions for reducing air pollution will enable Nuremberg to prioritize its actions according to the needs of the city. Using the results of this project, Nuremberg will be able to identify which areas of the region are worst affected. For example, the city council may substitute transportation options which have high emissions with greener solutions, or they may identify areas to extend bicycle lanes.

By having better traffic data, cities like Nuremberg can combat the challenges of pollution and smog - improving the lives of thousands of citizens.

This post was originally published on LUCA's blog, Data Speaks, and edited for by kind permission of Telefónica Germany.